Line in the Sand

Apr 30, 2010

Leave it to Steve Jobs to stir up controversy and potentially shift the web so profoundly with his public message to Adobe posted on the Apple website yesterday. There may be many implications from this message to web designers and developers alike; the clear one being the push for the progress of HTML5, a standard that seems to be gaining momentum with each passing day. While this debate started on terms of mobile devices and why Flash doesn’t suit them, it goes beyond that now.

“New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too).”

– Steve Jobs

Outside of Adobe, Jobs’ message also has an indirect effect to other companies who still utilize Flash as their main web application base. This only further solidifies the concept of both technologies being competitors, rather than complimentary to each other. Developers have to question if moving forward with Flash is the right thing to do, as the shift towards mobile computing grows larger each year. If more and more designers and developers eventually fall out of favor with Flash to keep up with the changing computing demographics though, I can only ask myself how will the web look five years from now?

Now, this debate goes deeper than just web software ideology. Web-based applications are the future and while I understand Flash over the years provided necessary tools for the web that weren’t possible using only HTML, CSS and JS, that isn’t so much the case now. Speaking strictly from a design perspective, I think this is a very good thing. I’ve been already experimenting with HTML5 and am not typically a fan of any Flash, but I understand that for many web applications beyond your typical website, Flash may still be the way to go. Google, once powerful allies to Apple just confirmed that Flash is coming to Android. Google Street View still uses Flash to run its user interface and there are signs it’s expanding. YouTube, even with all the talk of moving towards video tag implementation, is still is a ways off from moving everything away from Flash. So if a large company such as Google who arguably have the best engineers in the industry, will still have their main online applications utilizing Flash, I think it’s going to be a while before we see full HTML5 implementation across all platforms.

There’s no denying Jobs is a true visionary; he is banking on the mobile computing “boom” over the next few years and he’s probably right in that regard. The problem is, as it stands today PCs still outnumber smartphone and tablet devices by a wide margin. So while I agree this is an important first step in moving forward with HTML standards, the killing of Flash all-together strictly for the benefit of mobile devices may not be fully justified. That is, until a majority of web apps currently utilizing Flash successfully switch over to HTML5 on the PC side first. I haven’t seen any full evidence of that yet, so I feel that signs of the death of Flash are a bit premature.