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The web is becoming a less engaging place, with fewer rich, interactive browser experiences since Apple’s iPad has hit the market.

I say this because one of our clients has recently decided to stop using our services: they want their web content to be iOS compatible. On their site, they used to have Flash content with HTML-fallback, and now they’ve decided to ditch Flash entirely.

But, as the infograph below shows, HTML5 is not a real alternative for Flash. The biggest problem? HTML5 browser penetration is currently at 50%, versus a steady 99% for Flash. So, our old client will have to create HTML5 content that can be seen by about 50% of their visitors, with HTML fallback for the other half. That fallback will be static, not interactive and silent, and less engaging than the content that could be shown with Flash, a plugin that has a 99% chance of being available on the visitor’s machine.

Why you would cut your potential audience reach in half, up your development cost and hand over all your assets (images and video) DRM-free to your visitors is frankly beyond us, but we have a hunch: Apple marketing hype, the ‘Flash is bad, mkay?’-mantra that is not based on facts, and last but not least: a lot of decision-makers in this process walk around with an iOS device.

Professional dataminers and -visualisers Periscopic.com have recently updated their data on the Flash vs. HTML5 debate and made the infograph below that is based on facts and not on hype or marketing buzz. They come to this conclusion about Flash:

 

Flash is an established and unified platform that reaches 99% of desktop and laptop browsers with a broad and consistent feature set matched with solid performance. Applications can be developed for Flash with fewer technical restrictions and greater speed than is currently possible in HTML5.

 

Click the image to see the full-sized version:

Flash_vs_HTML5

 

This great article on greensock.com sums up some of the technological advantages Flash still has over HTML5:

  • Complex manipulation of Bitmaps at runtime – some pretty amazing effects are possible in Flash using BitmapData and various filters which would be virtually impossible to do in HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript. Canvas looks promising, though.
  • Complex 3D
  • Complex manipulation of audio at runtime
  • Developing and debugging in AS3 is leaps and bounds better because of strict data typing and many other features of the language. This can translate directly into much faster development timelines too.
  • Performance – in most cases, Flash is much faster (except text rendering).
  • Rich banner ads – I don’t think anyone likes ads, but the reality is that there’s a vast infrastructure built around delivering banner ads with Flash technology. File size restrictions make Flash especially well-suited for banners too.
  • Webcam video and audio – I understand there are initiatives in the works for a standard in the browser, but it is far from being something you could rely upon for broad usage in the real world anytime soon.
  • Animated text anti-aliasing – HTML/CSS/JavaScript text animations seem more jerky because of the way the text gets anti-aliased in the browser. (anyone know of a solution?)
  • Masking with any shape
  • Advanced video – alpha channels, DRM, cue points, streaming, etc.
  • Ubiquity and consistency – as much as folks like to claim HTML5 is a “standard”, the reality is that the various browsers have some radically different implementations and incompatibilities not to mention the fact that most people aren’t running an HTML5-compliant browser on their desktop/laptop yet. Adoption can be pretty slow too, especially in the government sector. Flash is already on well over 95% of internet-connected desktops/laptops. Flash is also used for many other devices like interfaces on car stereos, printer LCDs, TVs, and more. A swf generally runs the same way on any platform, so there isn’t such a need to implement hacks to work around various browser incompatibilities.