Jump Back in TIme with HTML5

– taterboy | June 19th, 2010

Filed under: Design, Flash

UPDATE 6/23/10

Google released a great new HTML5 resource HTML5 Rocks for those looking to learn more about HTML5, complete with samples and tutorials. Some of the coolest stuff (animation, transitions) is webkit based, it will be interesting to see how IE 9 handles this. Chrome Frame is an interesting concept for dealing with IE until IE 9 is released, kind of like an HTML5 plugin for IE 6, 7 and 8. I wonder if it will work with IE 9 to enable webkit supported HTML5 features?

I’ve been trying to work on new Flash and Flex tutorials, but keep getting sucked back into the HTML5 vs Flash debate. There are so many new quotes that reinforce that fact that a world without Flash is just not what the future holds in store. HTML5 and Flash a Reality Check

As an enthusiastic Mac fan for over 2 decades, I agreed 100% with Apple when they announced the end of the floppy drive. Steve Jobs has some good arguments for saying that the end of Flash is near, but all the logic put forth to support this claim does not seem to be supported by reality. Flash does have it’s faults, but so do all technologies we work with everyday. Plus, Apple’s track record on picking all the right technologies has not been without error, it did take them over twenty years to add a second button to their mouse.

The latest jab at HTML5 and what seems to be another fresh dose of reality to the Flash vs HTML5 war can be found at flashlab.com, titled “Jump Back in TIme with HTML5”.

This is a great spoof on the recently released page, put out by Apple, HTML5 and Web Standards. It provides some great insight as well as plenty of examples why many features expected to be a part of HTML5 are not that impressive. That’s because many of them have been a standard part of the web experience for over a decade.

Be sure not to miss the following links, also included in the flashlab page above.

“Jump Back in TIme with HTML5” could not have come at a more relevant time for me as we are currently working on an HTML5 site and trying to get all these “standard features” to work in all the current HTML5 supported browsers. Just to get video to work in Safari, Chrome and Firefox, you have to have two versions of each video file, one ogg vorbis (the only video format Firefox supports) and mp4. This creates another huge headache because many servers do not serve .ogv files in it’s correct mime type by default. The site is so full of code exceptions, based on which browser you are using, it really does remind me of the Netscape/IE nightmares from a decade ago, before CSS. To get this site to work in IE (currently supporting IE 7 and 8 ) we have to fall back on Flash. So for one HTML5 site to work across browsers, we have to have at least 2 versions of everything, which is not progress. I get the impression that Apple’s push for HTML5 as an open “standard” and as a “replacement” for Flash is just charade to avoid anti-trust lawsuits for not allowing legitimate alternative technologies onto their iPhones and iPads.

In all this, one may get the impression I’m anti-HTML5. Though it’s a pain in the butt right now, eventually it will be a great advancement for the web. What I am against is the talk that HTML5 is a replacement for Flash and that Flash is a dead technology. I’m also against the confusion, caused by Apple, where clients ask for Flash type websites done in HTML5 and expect them to be viewed by their company that still uses Windows 2000. When Apple can produce a site full of games that equal the immersive experience of some of the best Flash games out there, with equal performance, then we can compare these two technologies as apples to apples. It’ll be a few years before this happens, but by then Flash will be a new kind of fruit.

So Let’s Review:
1. HTML5 is currently supported by about a third of the web. (Not a standard)
source: netmarketshare.com

2. HTML5 features supported in the current browsers supporting HTML5 is very spotty. (Not a standard).
source: http://fmbip.com/litmus#scores

3. Flash works the same for 97% of the web, cross platform and cross browser, using one set of code and assets.
source: http://www.adobe.com/products/player_census/flashplayer/version_penetration.html

4. HTML5 can not produce the level of animation, interactivity and immersive experience that Flash can. From full 3D to real world type physics, it’s a great platform for developing games and high-end immersive websites.
source: http://www.thefwa.com/

Last Word (promise):
I love building Flash applications on my Apple computers. HTML5, not so fun at the moment. Unless we get to a point where everyone surfs the web with and same browser, there will never be the type of consistency, cross platform, cross browser experience that Flash provides.

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  1. Amen brother! I think your comments are spot on. It’s us developers that will determine what the clients and thus their end users will be interacting with. If the cost benefits of using HTML5 aren’t there and the same experience can’t be created using it I’m going to have a great deal of difficulty convincing clients that it’s the path to take.

    Comment by Jason Langdon — June 19, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

  2. I cant help giving a great big face-palm at the flash “web page” at http://www.flashlab.com/html5/webstandards.html

    It may look like a real web page (once you have disabled flash-block and reloaded it a couple of times), but it takes about a second to discover that its just surface with nothing under.

    It just doesn’t have a fraction of the functionality of a real web page.
    Try opening any link in a new tab or window, no go.
    Selecting text and doing ANYTHING with the selection that requires using the context-menu, no go its not even there anymore.
    Or dragging links to bookmark, or open, or put on desktop, or anything, no go.
    Changing the text size, no go.
    Using bookmarklets, no go.
    Viewing source, no go.
    And so on…

    Almost every single little nice piece of functionality that you are used to having in your browser, either built in or added with plug-ins, is no go.
    Pretty much all you are left with is the back button.
    You might as well be viewing a brochure in acrobat reader.

    Its a fake dummy web-page wannabee , that’s all.
    I cant wait to see crap like that die off.

    Comment by Mats Svensson — June 20, 2010 @ 9:45 am

  3. But… but… HTML 5 is the future. And… and… if you are not going to accept it we put you in…. in… concentration camps so you will understand importance of free will and freedom of choice.

    Comment by Steve J — June 21, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

  4. @ Mats – not sure it deserves a reply… but anyways – the point of the site was to showcase what Flash can to in comparison to HTML5 as it stands. ie. the DEMOS are the thing to be looking at, not the frame that they sit within.

    Comment by Jason Langdon — June 21, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

  5. So what ARE the demos supposed do show?

    That you can use flash to make web pages that look pretty, and that with a little work you can make them go trough some of the motions masquerading as a real web page, but that you can forget about having basic webpage-functionality like handling links or context because that was just part of “the frame” anyway, not the content?

    These things JUST work in even the simplest html-pages that any noob can cobble together, and the he/she doesn’t have to do a thing to make it work , it JUST works.
    In fact you have to go out of your way to block things like context-menus and link opening, drag&drop etc.

    So far i haven’t seen a single flash-page where things like this works at all.
    (id love to see one, if anyone has a link)

    The point is that you get this functionality for free when you build in html , but it costs in work when you build in flash, and therefore the user can kiss it goodbye.

    Yes the demos look very pretty, im not denying that.
    But for making web pages for viewing, and interacting with, in a browser, flash isn’t even in the race.

    Comment by Mats Svensson — June 21, 2010 @ 11:48 pm

  6. @ Mats – Flash websites aren’t for everyone, and clearly they ain’t for you at all. But it has it’s place in the marketing, design, application and video realms of which there are currently a hell of a lot of websites (despite how much this appears to pain the zealots falling in behind Steve Jobs’ BS train).

    HTML5, 6 or 7 is NOT going to supplant that. (I’m making this slightly wild accusation based on the 10 years it’s taken us to get from HTML4 to 5, and the lack of standards the browsers actually adhered to – I guess you’re only as good as your last innings right?)

    As for things JUST working in the browser – when done right, Flash offers just a good a experience as any pure HTML site out there. Not sure why you’re so hung up about context menus and being able to drag and drop either. Both of these work just fine in Flash – again, perhaps focus on the Technology not how it’s used and the debate might be able to move forward.

    The points you’re making may have been a good debate 5 years ago, but things have moved on now. Rich internet applications, video (that you can rely on working across ALL platforms), a robust coding language and a massive toolset for developers is where the battle will be won or lost. And right now, Flash has been doing all of those things and more for many years.

    Comment by Jason Langdon — June 22, 2010 @ 12:02 am

  7. I think you are right that “Flash websites aren’t for everyone”.

    But html websites are.
    So why limit yourself, and your visitors?

    And im “hung up about ” context menus, drag and drop, links etc, because these things just doesn’t work in flash sites.
    To me, if something doesn’t work, it should be fixed.
    Im odd that way i guess.

    You say these things DO work in fllash?
    OK, I DARE you to show me even ONE single flash site where the links has at least the functionally of even the simplest hello world html page, or where i can select a bit if text and pop up a context menu with for example the search options i get when i do the same on a html page.
    ( i have “search with Google”, Wikipedia and a bunch others i like)

    Should be easy right, with all those robust toolsets etc around.

    And nope, i don care one bit about any battles between Jobs and whoever, or between different technologies.
    I just want the web pages i visit to work well.

    Comment by Mats Svensson — June 22, 2010 @ 12:32 am

  8. So let me get this straight, you’re real hang up about Flash is that it doesn’t play nice with the extensions that you’ve got installed in Firefox/Chrome/IE!!!???

    WTF, that’s a pretty bizarre angle to come at for why you think Flash is no good…

    You sound like you’re a power user – and more power to you. But your hang ups regarding Flash really have nothing to do with the whole HTML5 argument that’s going on at the moment.

    I imagine you’ve got a Flash blocker installed, so you’re probably not seeing any of the Flash content that is actually out there – but if you were, you’d realise that they’re not exactly the type of sites that you need to be right clicking and selecting to search for the bit of text that you’ve just highlighted in Google… if you desperately wanted that functionality, the thing is, I could knock it up in Flash and release it as an open source library that anybody could integrate into their site. The reason I haven’t (nor has anyone else as far as I can tell) is – nobody seems to care about the functionality you’re rabbiting on about!

    Anyways, you’ve got your opinions on Flash, I’ve got mine.

    P.S. completely off topic, but are you the Mats Svensson that went to Chalmers tekniska högskola by chance?

    Comment by Jason Langdon — June 22, 2010 @ 1:53 am

  9. You are just not getting it.

    * Opening a link in a new window/tab has nothing to do with plugins.

    * Selecting text, or anything and doing something with it CAN be used by plugins, but has nothing to do with any specific plug-in, Its a browser thing.

    * Opening links or using the browsers menu that way is not something just “power users” do, if you think that you must not think much of your users.

    Playing nice with the browser IS a good thing for content that is to be displayed in a browser to do BY DEFAULT , not something that MIGHT be a good thing and could possibly perhaps maybe be added if enough people are “rabbiting on about” it.

    Imagine if all web-developers thought like that:
    – Doing something with the content one a web page that i haven’t thought of (like selecting a word in my brochure to look it up) , why on EARTH would anyone want to do that?
    – Well i suppose i could allow it if enough people sign some kind of petition or something, but till then ill assume no one cares.

    I find THAT way of doing things bizarre.

    And how do you KNOW “no one cares” about stuff like opening links in new windows/tabs?
    Has anyone for example ever measured how many users tries in vain to ctrl+click on links on flash sites that doesn’t support this?
    Relying on whether anyone complains or not to gauge if something works is useless, since no complaints can just a s well mean that the thing is so bad that no one bothers complaining, thinking it would be like suggesting polishing a turd.
    I know that’s how i think whenever i forget myself and try to do things on a flash site: “aha its flash! oh well, never mind then..”

    Using flash to add functionality to web pages is perfectly fine by me, but removing working existing functionality like an -tag and replacing it with half assed versions is a bad idea.

    And nope i have never gone to Chalmers, My name is fairly common in Sweden.

    Comment by Mats Svensson — June 22, 2010 @ 3:36 am

  10. Woops i wrote “a-tag” with angles at the end, and it messed things up.

    Comment by Mats Svensson — June 22, 2010 @ 3:38 am

  11. Wow, way to completely ignore everything I wrote.

    Let me take it back a step here. I’m not condoning Flash, for Flash’s sake. That’s where I think your gripes lie right?

    Flash, when used right (ie. to power the millions of videos now available BECAUSE of it’s ubiquity) or the multitude of RIA’s (that were made possibly by clever developers using Flex/Flash and a hint of javascript) don’t rely on the same browser ecosystem that you seem to be so hell bent on preserving.

    I used the term “rabbiting on” as it seems that you aren’t getting the point of this blog post (which incidentally isn’t even mine, but g’day to whoever it is that started it ;-) I agree with what your saying about usability issues, I just don’t see how that fits into the context of the original link, and the demos of Flash that it contains. If I wanted to create a site that:

    – allowed a user to open a link in a new window/tab (via ctrl-click)
    – allow the user to Select text (which is kinda easily done in Flash, just whether the developer enables it)
    – right click and via a context menu allow a selected word to be searched on wikipedia or google in a new tab

    well guess what, I could use Flash. But if you were the client, and you were telling me that it absolutely had to have these requirements, then I could certainly do it using HTML.

    The point is, I’ve got a choice.

    That’s something that I like. And I guess I’m going into bat for all those poor hapless iDevice users that don’t have that same choice.

    Comment by Jason Langdon — June 22, 2010 @ 4:34 am

  12. Thanks Jason and Mats for a spirited debate, especially for keeping it clean.

    Mats has some valid points about context menus and other built in browser features. I am starting to add more context menu options to the Flash sites that I work on. Selecting text, right-clicking and looking up with a dictionary is very doable. It’s also possible to hook up social interactivity into context menus with Flash. Many times though Flash sites are trying to be overly user friendly and have all the functionality integrated into the UI.

    If I were to build a site that had a ton of text and required browser functionality, Jason has a good point too, we would just build it in HTML. We try to choose the best technology for the project and keep all the Flash for what Flash does best, which is, bring an immersive interactive experience to the web using graphics, designer fonts, animation, video, music and sound effects.

    I guess it would be cool to have bookmark functionality to a game, but I can see that being hard to do with HTML5 as well. If you have a bunch of states in an app, wether HTML or Flash, you have to add linking functionality to the app. The basic browser functionality reloads the page and if you want anything else, you have to build it yourself. We have implemented some really cool projects with deep-linking with Flash and Flex that work with the browser’s history, forward and back buttons. Many developers just don’t thing about it, trying to keep all the functionality front and center in the app itself. We could do better making Flash apps more browser friendly, it is extra work and normally over looked.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Comment by taterboy — June 22, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  13. I guess the debate in the comments is a good enough proof that nothing will be supplanting Flash anytime soon when too developers cant even agree on the meirts of both

    Comment by Phantom — July 23, 2011 @ 1:17 am

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