The Value of Open Standards

Tuesday, February 16. 2010

...or why HTML 5 will fail as replacement for Flash (at least for the next years).

But first let me make clear that I am not a fan of closed standards and closed source. I love Open Source and I use Open Source software wherever possible. However sometimes it's better if there is one instance that has the control not just over a format, but also about the interpreter and renderer.

With the announcement of Apples iPad a big discussion started regarding the non-existence of Flash on it. Steve Jobs responded. He claims that Apple won't support Flash since they claim it's buggy and responsible for a lot of crashes on Mac OS, but what really makes me upset is that sentence:

No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML 5.

Also in blogs postings that talk about this topic several people mention that HTML 5 will be the future and that no one needs Flash.

Bullshit! Will people never learn from the past?

The History of Problems With HTML

Some years ago CSS 2 was praised for being a solution to layout and styling nightmare we faced with HTML 3. But ever created a complex page with HTML 4 and CSS 2? And then tested it in different Browsers? If you did that and claim that you never had experienced difficulties due to different behaviors of different browser you're a liar. Because either your page was a really simple page or you had difficulties.

These problems are nothing new. They are existing since HTML 3 and became worse the more complex HTML got and especially since Microsoft did not care about the W3C standards and started to interpret HTML their own way. But also other browsers had their own behavior - intentionally or not. HTML designers are used to hefty workarounds to make a page look like it was intended in all browsers.

What about HTML 5?

A little excerpt from an article on Wired:

Opera and Safari have been pioneering HTML 5 support for some time, but Firefox and Google Chrome aren’t quite as far along with their HTML 5 support (although the coming Firefox 3.5 will close the gap considerably). Internet Explorer 8 is somewhat further behind, though it too incorporates a few HTML 5 features.

[Highlighting added by myself]


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    Adobe: Creative Suite 6 not on Mac OS
    Some thoughts of what could happen if that headline above could become a reality. Most probably you've already heard about Steve Jobs dislike of the Adobe Flash Player. A War that started when it was announced that the iPad will not support Flash and hi
    Weblog: Occasional Thoughts
    Tracked: Apr 30, 23:21


    #1 Florian on 02/17/10 at 09:06 AM
    *First of all, your post is a buzzword parade, I'm not, and never will be, interested in *anything* billed as "enterprisey ready", I have star trek next generation at home on DVD, thank you very much.

    Testing, in general, should be an automated process, regardless weather you have to support one platform or many, and if it isn't, well, you know who to blame, yourself.

    As to cross browser issues, I don't know what rock you've been living under, but those things got a *lot* better in the last couple of years, to the point where I can, (gasp), write a webpage, test it only on one browser, and it runs exactly how I want it on all major browsers (admittedly, if you've no clue whatsoever and no experience in html, and you don't know about the meaning of "don't use CSS/HTML hacks, ever!" then you might be out of luck).

    Now in regards to your oh so shiny flash/flex wonderland. Let's face it pal, it sucks. It sucks because, well, I can't just sit down, bash out a couple of lines of text, be done, and have something that runs. It also sucks because it just fails at a couple of its core competencies (like playing back video, which is just mirred with so many issues I won't even begin to describe that train-wreck).

    Now it's true, HTML won't supplant flash anytime soon. However, if you want to write RIA applications, you don't *have* to do that in a proprietary standard using convoluted tools. It's true, you won't get all of the vector niceties of flash, and you'll have to deal with the occasional cross browser issue, but these aren't killer issues anymore, they're not even major.

    What I think gets you so rilled is that, despite all its messyness, and cross browser gotchas, and open standardyness, HTML is *actually* inching to a position where it takes on *some* of flashs core competencies, and consequentially, people use it for that. And I think that makes you scared, since you'd have to basically learn HTML now, of which you obviously do not have any clue.
    #1.1 Alex on 02/17/10 at 09:18 AM
    *"However, if you want to write RIA applications, you don't *have* to do that in a proprietary standard using convoluted tools"

    Very true, but the amount of effort required to write a nice UI that works across the majority browsers is enormous despite the likes of GWT - better to use something like Flex or JavaFX/Java which is designed for this kind of thing, rather than push the square peg into the round whole.
    #1.1.1 Margery on 07/08/11 at 08:24 PM
    *Whoever wrote this, you know how to make a good artlcie.
    #2 Alex on 02/17/10 at 09:08 AM
    *Nice post: the RIA part is often overlooked when it comes to these comparisons.

    Indeed, building moderate to extremel complex UI's in HTML/CSS/JS is very hard work and not really what those tech's are designed for: I don't think the new Canvas tag will do much to resolve this either - but I could be totally wrong...

    Personally, I think that HTML 5 will trundle along, and, like you pointed out, will have pot holes and surprises for all developers due to different companies implementing the spec slightly differently.
    #3 SM on 02/17/10 at 11:50 AM
    *Each technology has its advantages in certain types of tasks!
    #4 Danny on 02/17/10 at 06:54 PM
    *"Flash works well in linux"? It routinely gobbles up 100% of the CPU and only in the last year or so has solved the issue of the video and audio not being in sync.

    No, flash on Linux sucks, even if it sucks less than it used to.
    #4.1 Carsten Schlipf on 02/17/10 at 07:42 PM
    *Hi Danny,

    well, sure there are configurations on Linux, where Flash does not work properly. But I can assure you that I do not have any problems at all on various Linux systems for more than the last 2 years.

    At least it's not as worse as Steve Jobs describes it for the Mac, where he claims that Flash can crash the whole system.
    #5 Darren on 02/18/10 at 12:58 AM
    *@Florian, all I can say is that your designs must be very simple if you code once and they work in all browsers from IE6 to Opera. And tell me how you do *automated* testing across IE6, IE7, IE8, Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera on a Mac? I can sit down, bash out a few lines in Flex and it runs - yes, across all browsers, with built-in unit testing if I choose. Playing back video in Flash is a train-wreck? I've written a video annotation tool in Flex that works perfectly, thank you very much. Show me your cross-borwser, non-Flash solution then? Are you going to encode all your videos twice (Theora and h.264) and also offer a Flash fallback for IE? Let me know when you've written an app like Aviary in HTML/CSS/JS and I'll buy you a case of beer.

    @Carsten, Steve Jobs didn't say that Flash could crash the whole system. That would be an admittance that OSX is a failure if a browser plugin could crash the entire OS. He was talking about figures from crash reports which are sent when programs (in this case Safari) need to be terminated prematurely. There's an argument that this represents an issue with Safari too - Flash can't bring down Chrome on Windows for example. I'm not looking forward to the world where all the crappy programmers are making their ads in HTML5 instead of Flash. Because it's the crappy programmers who are to blame, not Flash.
    #5.1 Carsten Schlipf on 02/21/10 at 01:14 AM
    *Hi Darren,

    an excerpt from"

    "Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says."

    Well maybe he hasn't said that and the article does not reflect his words exactly. But as Jobs is quoted here, I understand that it's the system (Mac).

    But well, you're right. I doubt that Flash can really bring down the whole system.
    #6 venkatnarayan on 04/11/11 at 11:26 AM
    *Great article. Apple is going to fall soon and that will be because of Steve Jobs and his ego.

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