Oct 4, 2012

Five trends to watch for content owners: HTML5 versus Flash

Ansley Kilgore

HTML5 versus FlashThis is the final segment of a five-part series on trends for content owners. Catch up on the rest of the trends here.

In November of last year, Adobe confirmed what the news analysts had been predicting for months: Adobe was discontinuing its development of mobile browser Flash in favor of HTML5.  It’s true — combined with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript, HTML5 provides excellent design control (particularly gradient and masking flexibility) and can re-flow at multiple screen sizes. These features provide huge advantages for publishers given the explosive growth of the tablet and smart phone markets. HTML5 will also natively support audio, video and other elements currently supported by plug-ins like Flash, although not all video issues are yet resolved.

The lack of maturity of HTML5 means Flash will live on as a staple in many website and online application developers’ tool kits for some time. Creative tools for HTML5 like Adobe’s Edge aren’t fully mature and seamless cross-browser HTML5 support still requires lots of testing and debugging. As for Microsoft’s Silverlight, it should shortly disappear altogether except for very limited internal enterprise applications intended solely for Internet Explorer.

How are content owners responding?

In addition to enabling multi-device compatibility, the emergence of HTML5 as the go-to programming language for all devices will bring with it several advantages. First, without plug-in license fees, interactive and rich media content is becoming cheaper to produce. It is also improving the searchability of content because it resides natively in the browser. Media companies are responding by upgrading their HTML5 knowledge base — organic or otherwise. In January 2012, the Financial Times acquired London-based application development firm, Assanka, which built an HTML5 web application for the publisher. Game Closure, a small start-up developer of an HTML5 game authoring platform, reportedly turned down hefty acquisition offers from Zynga earlier this year.

While digital publishers are working to accelerate their development of HTML5 programming expertise and associated content deployment to take advantage of cost and revenue opportunities, they are keeping their toe in the Flash plug-in pool. At least in the near term, Flash continues to be a valuable programming tool to address complex design objectives. Infrastructure platforms such as private or custom cloud computing services are cost-effective options to test out new content deployments, HTML5 or otherwise. Global content delivery networks and route-optimized IP services continue to be critical technologies that ensure mobile content is delivered reliably to the end users no matter where they are in the world.

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Ansley Kilgore

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