back to article HTML 5 is no Flash or Silverlight killer — yet

Much has been made of how HTML5 will kill proprietary media tools and players from Adobe Systems and Microsoft. Web advocates claim that with the much more sophisticated audio, video and animation tools in HTML 5, the web will no longer need proprietary plug-ins from outside vendors. While you'd be hard pressed to find anyone …


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  1. Marvin the Martian

    Silverlight killers

    Does silverlight even need a killer? I've never seen a site requiring it. I may have been on the site, but it's their loss if I saw nothing.

    Of course I for one welcome silverlight.

  2. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    Different animals completely

    Flash etc is for the more artistic people out there. Point and click creation as you say.

    I use Javascript a lot and there is no way I could do the same thing with Javascript as people do in Flash unless I wrote masses and masses of code with it, but the result would probably also bring the browser to its knees.

    Looking forward to HTML5. Javascript is limited in its current form, but there are a few things I can do with it that you can't do in flash.

    Pity El Reg doesn't allow me to inject JS in here, I could make your browser window leap all over the screen and get banned from life from posting on El Reg ;-P

    You can't compare the two really.

    You know what we need here? We need an "It's Fridayyyy!" icon.

  3. Nicholas Wright
    Thumb Up

    A reason not to use Flash...

    ... it costs money to buy the IDEs.

    Canvas a part of HTML 5, will mean people can use without having to spend money on an IDE.

  4. Tom 7

    HTML5 not Silverlight or Flash Killer

    Strange - with great software developers Adobe and Microsoft actively involved in the HTML development process you'd think it would be leaping forward.

    I cant imagine either of them crapping on the process so their own proprietary formats earn them a fortune at OUR expense.

    Foxes in the chicken house and all that...

  5. batfastad
    Jobs Horns

    Flash works

    Imagine what a nightmare it would be to make an animation which conforms to all the differences in various renderers of the canvas element.

    That's why SVG transforms (even though they're a long way off) will never take over the world. Adobe Illustrator's SVG renderer differs from the Inkscape renderer etc.

    The theory with SVG (or so I thought) is that you'd manipulate it all with Javascript and create Flash-like animations. How long would that take people to do? A few clicks in Adobe Flash and anyone can get there.

    Flash Player behaviour (apart from bugs) will be pretty much the same on IE Vista, Safari Mac and Firefox Linux etc. That's why it wins

    Saying all that... I do hate Flash and Adobe in general and want them to burn forever in the fiery pits of proprietory hell. But thanks to Flashblock addon for Firefox I can't even see that Flash animation banner ad to the right over there! Nice.

    I don't like all this HTML5 stuff either. Just seems like adding a whole new bunch of tags into the existing mess of HTML for people to continue to get wrong.

    Using Ogg as the standard container for the audio and video tags is a strange choice as well. Especially when there's the open-source Matroska with XML binary compatibility (I think).

    How about starting completely from scratch... like XHTML2?!

    And my final thing on this topic... I want Mozilla to fix up remote XUL and get some proper specs together. That way I can have server-based XUL apps all running from within Prism... rather than an intranet full of horrible HTML layouts

  6. Jerome 0
    Thumb Up

    HTML 5 video

    The HTML 5 video codec spat is surely as good as solved, after Google's purchase of On2 Technologies?

    I for one will happily write pages requiring HTML 5 support from the browser. If people are dumb enough to use some crazy non-standards compliant browser, that's their look-out. Of course, I'm in the lucky position that the sites I'm writing aren't for commercial purposes.

  7. Daniel 1

    And what will accessability laws add to this porridge?

    Interestingly, the US Congress is currently mulling The Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, which could require all corporate video content to have captions, for the sake of those who are hard of hearing. The problem, here, is that none of the current HTML 5 video-embedding options allow for captions to be included in either an out-of-band or an in-band way, as part of the spec - whereas all of the proprietary options allow captioning to be added in-band (as part of the file). Thus, those customers first forced to include captioning information in their video content (commercial websites) may end up opting to stay with Flash or Silverlight, simply because it is easier to add captions using these formats, and thus comply with this potential new law.

    Hence Google's interest in On2 and it's VP6 codec. If Google can ensure VP6 supports both in-band captioning and indexable captions, they will have the codec they want, for the Web. Embedding the video in other websites would not be a problem, since the in-band caption content would go wherever the file went - while, if Google can dictate the spec they can also ensure that the caption data can indexed. (What is accessible to assistive technologies is accessible to search engines, and the one thing Google yearns for, above all else, is more and more of the world to be indexable.)

    If Google just lets captioned video become the homeground of Flash or Silverlight files, they could end up locked out from being able to index all that lovely caption-text that could be just around the corner.

  8. Alastair 7

    Re: Different animals completely

    Take a look at the canvas tag functionality- while it would still require huge amounts of code it wouldn't bring the browser to it's knees. Still a bloody difficult way of doing animations, mind.

  9. Joel Fiser

    Flash is better BECAUSE it is proprietary

    Proprietary is better in this case. Here's why:

    Anyone who has actually developed web pages for a living, knows how painful it is to make your pages look the same across browsers and platforms.

    Flash looks the same across browsers and platforms - BECAUSE it is proprietary.

    Flash will always be light years ahead in terms of cutting edge features - BECAUSE it is proprietary.

    Flash's Actionscript will always be far ahead of Javascript - BECAUSE it is proprietary.

    Flash will always perform better - BECAUSE it is proprietary.

    Time to get off of the 'proprietary is bad' mantra. Let's examine the technologies on their merit.

  10. McBread

    URL obfuscation

    I also suspect that <VIDEO> will, to a degree, be held back by the fact that instead of URL obfuscation, it provides an opportunity for ubiquitous Right Click-Save As functionality in browsers. Sure, non-visible URLs is a security by obscurity feature of Flash that is trivial to sidestep, but that won't stop Pointy Haired Bosses demanding it.

  11. Nuno
    Thumb Down

    browser update

    your theory on the adoption of post ie8 browser is just wrong. The reason that ie6 is still around is it's lack of standards conformity. Developers have built a lot of critical applications that were targeted for ie6 specifications and cannot change browser until they are rebuilt. But I can bet my kingdom that, this time, they will be targeting standards and not specific browsers... With standards based apps, you can update your browser (standards compliant), without fear of loosing your application.

  12. Doc Spock

    Flash Animation

    The article seems to suggest that Flash-based animations are a Good Thing™. In my view, making it harder for web site designers to create annoying animated content is a Good Thing™. For me, Flash-heavy sites are one of the biggest turn-offs on the Web (very rarely do such sites actually contain anything useful).

    The article also seems to neglect the issue of mobile devices that struggle to run flash content - that is the real target for the relevant parts of the HTML5 spec. The intention is to remove one of the many layers between displaying Web content and the underlying hardware running the browser, thus taxing the CPU/GPU less.

  13. Mad Hacker

    Damn You!

    Damn you for being right and logical. In other news, didn't an Apple employee just get put in charge of being the head of the HTML 5 spec? If so, maybe they'll sledgehammer in H.264 and get that video spec in there.

    Still your reality of not having support in browsers is true and that's what's really sad.

    The Canvas solution to Flash doesn't sound that great. Um, JavaScript for timeline based sound and graphics animation? I guess if they release an editor that works like Toon Boom Studio and creates the Canvas javascript files for you it might be ok. As a past web dev I can tell you completely different teams do the back-end logic vs the graphics arts and after seeing some developers do graphics layouts, that separation is indeed important.

  14. captain veg Silver badge

    Re: Silverlight killers

    They weren't going to get my business anyway.

    Anyway, as for dev tools, why wouldn't Adobe make them? It's not like they get any particular benefit from Flash lock-in. I'm sure someone will come up with a Flash --> Canvas converter.

    IMO Internet Exporer is the real issue. Will Microsoft actually release a timely update, and will it support the standard in its entirety and as written? Past experience suggests not. Is even IE8 completely standards compliant?


  15. lyngvi

    html 5 video fail...

    "Let's make a standard video tag! Oh, but we don't need a minimal support requirement."

    Typical W3C blunder. There's no reason to use the video tag if you *still* need browser-detect logic to make the fucking thing work. So yeah, HTML5 killing Flash or Silverlight? *Not likely.*

  16. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    It's early days yet.

    I think HTML 5 will get pretty good take up as it allows developers to do some things a lot better than before and it degrades pretty well.

    Google has a lever with all the Google Mail uses out there desperate for anything to run faster. Step up Chrome which is already being plugged on sites like YouTube but we can expect the marketing activities to pick up, particularly if they get more ISPs like Virgin selling them users. While it will be easy enough to work around browsers so the user hardly notice I think we might well see the return of "Works best with..." signs on sites. Of course, if they ever get content owners to agree they could work on exclusive content sites such as movies in full HD paid for entirely by advertisting.

    While Adobe probably isn't looking forward to the loss of the lucrative server business, they've got a few years yet. Anyway, as a tools vendor, they're ideally placed to offer their tools for the HTML 5 world. Plus ça change, plus ça même chose, as they say.

  17. Don Mitchell


    Innovation doesn't come from standards committees. Java, Flash, Silverlight and other commercial inventions should be encouraged, but eventually absorbed into the HTML standard. But let's not pretend there is something evil about companies inventing and promoting media plugins.

    Standards should reflect well-proven practice. If you rely on committees and academics to actually invent things, you'll end up in trouble. OSI is a good example, a complex multi billion dollar boondoggle that never worked properly. Every textbook talks about it like it was a wonderful idea, but they never mention the disasterous failures when people actually tried to implement TP4 and X.400.

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  19. contentvoid


    This doesn't really take into account that both Flash and Silverlight have a lot happening server side as well. Variable bit rate streaming, DRM, jumping around within a stream, etc (I'm sure there is more but my familiarity is limited). Even if the browser vendors all agreed to slap an Ogg codec in it wouldn't erase the server side advantages of the proprietary RIA tools.

  20. kissingthecarpet
    Gates Horns


    Have you let the Mozilla devs know about this, or filed any remote XUL bugs? I expect you have, but if not, you might find it worth doing - certainly more chance of success than getting MS to fix a bug in IE, say .

  21. jgsacris

    Not bad for Adobe... if they are smart.

    I don't know about you but we do spend a lot of time=money debugging the inconsistencies between browsers with the "old" standards HTML4 and XHTML. We do develop commercial websites. And HTML5 is not going to make things easier.

    So I think Adobe may be in a good position just because for us, and for our clients, it is a lot cheaper to develop RIAs with one consistent environment than to go fishing in the browser jungle; and if the development of HTML, CSS1+2+3 and JavaScript/ECMAScript/JScript is any indication this is not going to change any time soon.

    In any case the more HTML5 evolves the more we will need the tools that enable us to develop rich content, and right now there is no other company out there that better understands the designer + developer workflow as Adobe. Yes, they do have a lot invested on their Player but if they are able to align the migration of their development tools towards HTML5 with the facing out of the Flash Player (if and when it happens) they may come on top at the end. It will not be easy but Macromedia already managed the migration from the CD-ROM to the Internet successfully (and ended making a lot of money) so they may pull it off . After all, where Adobe makes most of its money is in the designer/development tools.

  22. Anonymous Coward


    a) What's Silverlight? Huge market penetration there, obviously.

    b) There is no more certain way to get me to leave a website at its opening page than to stick a fucking great Flash animation on it. It's big and it's not clever.

    And why do you think so many people use Firefox with Adblock? Is it possibly because they hate those fucking obtrusive in-your-face Flash ads, such as one finds on the Register?

  23. Filippo Silver badge


    By the time HTML5 makes *current* Flash/Silverlight/JavaFX obsolete, Flash/Silverlight/JavaFX will have further evolved and STILL be ahead.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excanvas, Icecast

    look them up. This is not about technology not being available, it is about proprietary lockin as normal. And there are lots of technologies to break the lockins.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Designers vs programmers

    Is it really a bad thing if there are less designers involved?

    I, and most people I know, hate Flash based websites. They are slow, difficult to use and generally pointless. At least if it was all programmers it would raise the level of knowledge required so you won't get every piece of crap someone can think of online - some actual effort and learning would have to be invested.

    Then again, I'm a programmer so I'm probably biased...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    H.264 won't fly

    H.264 will never be mandantory unless the MPEG-LA make it free to implement. Currently, if anyone distributes a H.264 encoder or decoder they must pay licensing fees to the MPEG-LA. There's no way around it. This is why Theora is one of the few contenders for the <video> tag - it is royalty and patent free. The only way any codec is ever going to gain wide acceptance is if it costs nothing to produce content using it, nothing to distribute said content and nothing to play it back. No browser company wants to foot the bill for potentially tens of millions of licenses.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Flash is er....point and click?

    Did somebody forget about Actionscript? Ooooh yes, someone forgot about Actionscript all right!

    Designers looking at the prospect of becoming programmers with horror? What is this? The 1950s? Designers can already program, its part of University courses. You want to do Digital Media and Design? Better get learning that Javascript, HTML5 and Actionscript, boy!


  28. Charles 9


    Matroska is merely a container format; there is no Matroska codec out there. Ogg encompasses both containers and actual audio and video codecs (all of which are open source).

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    " I don't know about you but we do spend a lot of time=money debugging the inconsistencies between browsers with the "old" standards HTML4 and XHTML. We do develop commercial websites."

    Suck it down.

    I spend a small amount of time fixing cross-browser issues; I use the same library of style and behaviour fixes from one project to the next. With a clear separation of content, style and behaviour it's pretty easy to achieve.

    Relying on flash makes graceful degradation much harder (or even impossible), and means you're forcing users to upgrade / install flash etc for "functionality" that often brings little of value to their experience. In some cases, users might even be forced to install a different browser. In other cases, users may not have the rights to install or upgrade plugins. That would be you costing your clients business.

    If a one man band can cope, I'm pretty sure an entire team should be able to.

  30. asdf

    only an issue because flash sucks

    If Adobe released half decent client side software in many ways this issue would be moot from a practical stand point. But as everyone knows Adobe flash is one of the most insecure pieces of software you could possibly put on your box (pwn contests usually won exploiting flash). Adobe has an even worse security record than even M$ and maybe short of oracle the worse in the industry. Finally as evidenced by the 30+ meg download for acrobat reader (as compared to 2.5 meg download for foxit pro with %95 of same functionality) Adobe also has a bit of a problem with bloat. The only reason I am cheering for html 5 is so I no longer have to worry about the giant security holes and performance issue Adobe software brings to any system.

  31. Forename Surname

    HTML 5 Video

    HTML 5 native video won't be taking over Flash or Silverlight streaming anytime soon, unless there exists an HTTP streaming video server that can replicate all the features like:

    1) Most importantly, major video streaming websites need to be able to guarantee that between-video advertising cannot be skipped or fast-forwarded. Is this already a part of the HTML 5 spec?

    2) Video streaming sites also will need the feature that is currently a part of Flash and Silverlight that tailors video streams to an individual viewer's computer based upon the current network throughput.

  32. Goat Jam
    Paris Hilton

    Show me the money

    Flash = $699 USD

    Canvas = $0

    Give it time. HMTL5 may never be as point and click easy as Flash, but for 700 bucks people will be prepared to a bit of learning.

    Also, "most taciturn supporters"? Is that what you meant?

    As in "most reluctant to speak supporters"?

    Paris, because she's never taciturn (except when her mouth is full)

  33. askvictor

    adobe should make the software.

    I'd expect Adobe to actually be one of the first to write content creation software for HTML5 canvas/SVG etc. They write software which produces other open standards files (PDF, PS, PNG, JPEG, even HTML). They don't make money from the flash plugin, they make money from the flash creation software - if they can make kick-arse SVG etc software they'll continue to make money. If they try to keep the world hooked on flash, eventually the world will leave them behind.

    @Joel Fiser: if you tried to apply your same arguments to the dominant browser of this decade (Internet Explorer), you would see they fail. It is competition (which requires, to some degree open standards) that makes this better/faster/more efficient. Not the fact they are proprietary. Just ask Microsoft.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tedious, waffly, repetitive, ...

    Author doesn't know the difference between "immanent" and "imminent".

    This doesn't make sense: "more complex than even its most taciturn supporters are willing to admit". Change "most" to "least" and it makes more sense, but I'm still left with the suspicion that the author doesn't really know what "taciturn" means, either.


    Have a good weekend.

  35. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Agree w/ article but not some comments

    So I agree in general with the article but not some of the comments..

    I really want HTML5 to succeed -- Silverlight is just not cross-platform (Moonlight doesn't count, it's perpetually behind on features enough that it doesn't really work even for most demos.) Flash has at least been widely ported, but again is not fully portable; it's also overkill for just playing some videos; it's also far more CPU-hungry than it should be.

    BUT, the article is right -- a lack of development tools will hurt uptake. And without at least saying 1 video format "should" be supported, the video situation could get silly. I'm hoping firefox and other open source browsers will have the option of hooking into ffmpeg for video playback, then basically ALL formats will be supported straight away.

    That said... the Flash IDE costing $500 is a weak argument in favor of HTML5. The Flash specs are open, and in fact there are free Flash development tools. I don't know if they are good or not. I expect HTML5, canvas, Javascript, etc., to be similarly complicated to Flash.. that is, if there are not good free IDEs for Flash, I don't see why there suddenly will be for HTML5.. you may end up paying $500 for a good HTML5 IDE as well.

    Also, the arguments saying proprietary is better because there's only one implementation, having to implement for different renders of the same info, etc., are a bit silly. HTML was not initially meant to render identically, so once people decided it SHOULD come out the same it took hacking on 10+ year old code to pass the ACID tests, but now that browsers do pass them (more or less) there's not as many problems with browser-specific workarounds. Canvas was speced from the start to come up with specific results for specific input, I'm sure with that in mind it'll be much more uniform between browsers right from the start.

    So, overall, I don't think HTML5 is down for the count, but I expect it'll take at least 6 months to a year for it to take off if it's going to.

  36. codedread

    The Tools Are Coming

    I would expect designers to go after the SVG format, rather than the Canvas tag (which is basically a programmable graphical surface). SVG is supported in just as many browsers as Canvas and is more powerful.

    There are already tools out there (Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator) and I've been helping a web-based tool: - it's a start

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