Is Flash dead yet? No, not exactly.
Steve Jobs said it's proprietary and closed, however.
OK, I'll explain.
Flash is not going anywhere any time soon. Some might say "unfortunately".
The Debate: HTML 5 vs. Flash
When compared head-on with Flash, HTML might be missing many crucial features such as immersive graphical UIs, motion tweens, shiny UI effects, "skip intro" buttons and .. erm .. audio and video control. Until recently, it was simply impossible to embed or control audio or video in HTML without relying on an external plugin of some sort. Thankfully, images made it into the spec!
The development and progression of HTML 5, which includes audio and video elements, has been interpreted by some as the death knell for Adobe's Flash plugin — currently the de-facto standard for delivering "rich interactive experiences" with audio, video and animation elements.
January 2010 saw YouTube introduce experimental HTML 5-based rendering of some of their H.264 video content in supported browsers, sans flash. In the same month, Apple announced their iPad tablet. Notably missing was support for Flash, a continuation of the approach taken with the iPhone and iPod Touch.
What's going on?
HTML and Flash for many years have been considered as separate technology solutions, the mixing of the two being appropriate depending on the brand experience or audience. Now, HTML may finally be starting to step into Flash's turf of audio and video in particular, presenting another option for "rich media" and interactive experiences.
HTML-native video has a ways to go — particularly around format support ..and then there's IE ... And yet despite all of this, the potential alone of HTML 5 is generating a lot of excitement and interest.
Where the "battle" is to be had at some point in the future — if and when basic features and other things are roughly equal — will likely be over specific feature details and quality of execution. Flash has a huge, established and supported install base and is the de-facto standard, and "it just works" for most audio and video applications — or, as the cynic would say, it's better than anything else out there.
Flash has earned and maintained its dominant position by continuously providing solid cross-platform graphic animation, audio and video support in the browser where others have tried and failed. Flash might retain much of its dominant position here and in real-time streaming audio/video, communications and (perhaps) animation for years to come. HTML 5 is perhaps well set to challenge this over time given the standards process and evidence of interest from a number of large companies, but it might be several years before HTML 5-based audio and video are anywhere near commonplace. In any event, HTML 5 and Flash will most certainly co-exist for a very long time simply due to legacy support.
On the other hand, that a company such as Apple have announced a big, disruptive new web-oriented product in 2010 that simply "doesn't do Flash" is certainly a statement; it suggests that Apple believes Flash isn't a requirement for their vision of the web, as HTML may now fill that gap for them in this product's browser. In that light perhaps HTML 5 should not be seen so much as competition to Flash, but rather simply the next milestone in the constant evolution of web technology.
Smarter people have written far more words about this sort of thing; if you're interested, read what they have to say.
- Google isn't Evil. Flash isn't Dead; thank god the Open Web doesn't have a single vendor (Dion Almaer, January 2010)
- "The World Is Moving To HTML 5" and Other Flights of Fancy (Richard Leggett, February 2010)
- Flash, iPad, Standards (Jeffrey Zeldman, February 2010)
- Open Access to Content and Applications (Kevin Lynch, Adobe CTO, February 2010)
- The Flash Blog » The iPad provides the ultimate browsing experience? (Lee Brimelow, Adobe, February 2010)
- Flash: 99% Bad (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox) - October, 2000