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IDG News Service - You know a technology's future doesn't look promising when even the company that manages it has started offering a toolset for the competing approach.
"We think our customers are going to be able to take advantage of Web standards in some cases where before the only option would have been to use Flash," admitted Arno Gourdol, director of engineering for Adobe Flash.
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Adobe's Flash multimedia platform has, of course, delivered animations, interactivity and rich graphics to Web browsers for the past 15 years or so, via a plug-in now installed on as many as 98% of the world's desktop and laptop computers.
With HTML5, however, the W3C has slowly replicated much of the functionality in Flash, leading observers to assume that, once it is fully supported in browsers, it could replace Flash altogether, eliminating the need for plug-ins and costly authoring tools from Adobe and others.
Certainly an increasing number of Internet giants are thinking this is the case. Most famously, Apple last year nixed the idea of using Flash on iPhones and iPads, citing flakiness of the platform and the general readiness of HTML5 as an alternative.
Facebook has set up a HTML5 resource center, in the hopes that developers would use the technology to build mobile apps that can be accessed through Facebook. Google is using HTML5 to build out the next generation of Gmail.
So, does this mean it is time to send Flash out to pasture? Not necessarily, not now, nor even for the foreseeable future, due to a number of reasons.
One thing to consider is Flash's still powerful legacy. "The old adage goes the best language to use is the language you know," says IDC software analyst Al Hilwa. While the latest versions of the browsers support HTML5 for the most part, the vast majority in use are older versions, and don't fully support the standard. This is particularly true for enterprise users, whose browsers don't get updated as often. We may be dealing with pre-HTML5 browsers as late as 2015, Hilwa predicts. And if you want your content to reach these un-updated masses, you will need to go with Flash.
Another consideration to keep in mind is that just as HTML5 and related standards continue to be developed, Flash itself is not standing still. And, generally speaking, a single company like Adobe can develop and implement features on a platform more quickly than a standards body, Gourdol says.