Recently, our CTO commented on an article from Inc. Magazine that talked about six major tech innovations that will disrupt business – HTML5 is one of those. But, will HTML5 ultimately replace Flash? That would depend on how you characterize HTML5. The industry tends to grab one piece of the puzzle and paint all of the rest of the pieces with the same brush. HTML5 is an example of a specific technology that is being broadly used as a term to describe a set of technologies and their joint functionality.
Plug-ins like Flash have provided a way to get interactivity in the browser for over a decade but they tend to have heavy footprints and require downloads. The upside of using plug-ins is that they provided consistent behavior across all platforms – provided you have the plug-in installed. This is why they have gained the popularity and ubiquity they have. There was no other way to have interactivity and consistency across platforms and browsers without them.
The movement in the industry that we are categorizing as HTML5 is really about developing a set of standards that all browsers across all devices can consume that provides a consistent user experience. The marketplace is demanding that the standard experience enable the ability for manipulation through interactivity by the user and have a small, lightweight footprint.
HTML5 is the latest generation mark-up language being adopted by the W3C. By itself, HTML5 as a mark-up language would hold little comparison to the interactive user experience of Flash. What makes HTML5 interesting is jQuery and Cascading Style Sheets 3.0 (CSS). jQuery’s ability to manipulate the document object model (DOM) and dynamically change style and behavior is where the rich interactive user experience begins. It’s the power of the 3 together that make up the new “HTML5″ paradigm that’s creating the buzz.
The driving force to standardize interactivity and provide consistency across platforms is in what we are calling the Consumerization of IT. Progressive companies no longer want to control the devices, operating systems and browsers an employee may use to consume work-related information. Rather they want to enable and facilitate their use because it increases employee productivity and satisfaction. These devices are primarily tablets or smartphones which drive the need to provide faster, lightweight protocols that suit mobile platforms.
While this shift to the new “HTML5” paradigm helps companies address their device variations, it’s also good for many software vendors. Imagine a software vendor having to rewrite an app every time a new smartphone or major/minor version of an OS is released while still supporting each and every former release. That model is costly and unmanageable – particularly as fast as new devices and OS versions are being released. Using standard technologies frees software vendors from the burden of having to write and support device, OS or browser-specific applications. It’s lightweight, more scalable characteristics make it ideally suited for delivering information from the cloud as well – another major topic in the industry.
Though this shift is certainly upon us, HTML5 by itself will not replace Flash. However, unless these proprietary plug-in vendors reinvent their relevancy, this paradigm shift we’ve labeled “HTML5” certainly will.