April 28, 2011

The critical vulnerability Adobe recently discovered in its Flash Player has got to have Steve Jobs smirking. He’s long contended that Flash is one big security headache and is “the #1 reason Macs crash”. He’s certainly not alone. Many a developer has cursed Flash for being a CPU hog, while users rail against the diminished battery life of devices when using Flash.

Yet, despite all the vitriol, Flash survives, backed by some hefty development resources at Adobe. While the release of IE9 will increase HTML5 adoption, Flash isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. YouTube isn’t going to move away from Flash because “the <video> tag does not currently meet all the needs of a site like YouTube” – such as live streaming and dynamic video control.

Which one should live on: Flash or HTML5?

Panelists Elliot Chong and Toby Miller from Resource Interactive’s RI:Lab took on opposing sides of the argument at this year’s SXSWi. Their contention: Flash and HTML5 work better in tandem.

For example, HTML5’s video element isn’t replacing Flash video. Most HTML5 videos at this time include sniffer code, which auto-detects the device requesting the video, and serves up the appropriate version. That means there are two versions – one Flash and one HTML5 being stored online.

So what’s a developer to do?

Embrace both. HTML5 and Flash are just tools used to develop an experience for the user. Does it make sense to create a Flash-based restaurant menu when it will be inaccessible to a large segment of your mobile audience? Or how about creating HTML5 animations for an intranet site where the IT department has not upgraded their browser since 2003? (Hey, it happens. Think about how long it took people to get rid of Hotmail.)

HTML5 will reduce the importance of plug-ins, but it’s not likely that Flash will be gone next month, next year, or maybe ever. Right now there is a great demand in the marketplace for Flash developers. And there is always a demand for professionals with relevant skills. So the most important thing you can do is to follow the thought leaders in the industry and find the best sites to keep up with.

After all, as a developer, user experience comes first, method second.

For more information on what HTML5 can do, check out InfoWorld’s “HTML 5 Deep Dive” (PDF 468k).

And while you’re at it, don’t forget about all the cash you can earn with Aquent Rewards when you refer great HTML and Flash folks to us and your friends get hired. Submit a referral.

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