HTML 5 vs Flash vs SilverLight

This is by no mean a full technical comparison between these technologies, just a chat between 2 geeks. One is a skeptic backend dude 😉 and the other one is yours truly, a GUI guy.

It started with an email from Eli (the backend dude)  titled “the Next big thing”?

Elihttp://www.chromeexperiments.com/ , RIP Flash. Long live HTML 5 + JavaScript.

Guy: This is old…  Let me know when Chrome will reach 99% of desktop computers.

Eli:  HTML 5 is old? LOL.  FYI, despite the fact that the spec is far from being finalized, browsers with sparks of HTML 5 support count among them ie8, ff3, opera and safari.

Guy:  Old news, that is.  HTML 5 is only started to get supported.   HTML 5 + Javascript has a small subset of what Flash 10 can offer.  By the time HTML 5 will be a standard Flash 12 will reach 90%

Eli:  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the same thing about java applets about a decade ago… ;)  Seems like the simplicity of markup languages makes them the long distance runners

Guy:  Exactly, Flash has succeeded where Java failed. Flash has a lot of issues, but currently (and in the few coming years for sure) it’s the most powerful and available runtime.  HTML + Javascript is far from simple and cause huge problems for complex applications.

Eli:  Flash is mostly used to fill gaps in HTML, not to solve the huge problems in the complex applications the web is made of, isn’t it?

Guy:  This is what Adobe aim to solve with Flash, to be the ultimate platform for creating and running RIA (Rich Internet Applications). Still, a lot of RIAs are written in AJAX (Javascript+HTML), which, with the aid of solid and powerful frameworks like jQuery become reasonable in some cases. Lately Google, which already have a lot of RIA tools, is trying to change the game with its Chrome browser and OS. The Chrome browser is equipped with a much faster JavaScript engine that enables what we can see in chromeexperiments.com. Microsoft is also trying to be a player in this space with its new SilverLight runtime.

Eli:  Yet, the idea of basing the web on some proprietary browser plug in is doubtable. Epic fall of java applets and endless annoying ActiveX bullshit are just a couple of examples. IMHO, the shortcoming of this approach is missing the idea that The Web is more than “screenfuls of text and graphics” ©. Layout engines, however, are here for more than a decade and markup languages – for ages, proving themselves in taking the web into the places no one was thinking then about.

P.S. The only thing Adobe aims is profit.

P.P.S. I love holy wars.

Guy:  The proprietary thing is indeed an issue, it prevents Flash from being accepted in some areas of the web and by some users. E.g. the Wikipedia video project uses HTML 5 video, they can’t use anything that is closed. What prevents Flash from being open-sourced is that it contain 3rd party patent not owned by Adobe. Adobe is already trying to appeal to the open source crowed with the opening of some of its IP http://opensource.adobe.com. IMHO they might completely open the Flash runtime if and when it’ll be pushed to the wall by Microsoft and its new SilveLight (talking about proprietary ;).

Java and Active-X are completely different stories, each had its own reason to fail. Partially and shortly, it is too difficult to create a Java applet and its far from appealing to a designer. Active-x has no sandbox, hence it has a lot of security issues, and also runs only in IE.

HTML was created to display text and images with basic layout, Javascript was added to enable simple interactivity, no one dreamt it can be used the way it’s done today. Only with the maturity of the browsers and with specialization of web developers, these king of RIAs could have been created. Yet it still pushes the tech to it limits.

The HTML 5 standard will be adopted relatively fast, but we’re still talking in years. Even with the Chrome JS engine (V8), Javascript can’t match the power of languages like Actionscript 3.0 and C#. Javascript 2 is somewhere in the very distant future. HTML 5 biggest improvement is the support for media (video/audio). But, it still can’t compete with Flash and SilverLight media abilities, in terms of playback and deployment.

HTML 5 is nice but the main holy war is between the reigning RIA world champion which is Adobe Flash and the challenger which is Microsoft SilverLight. There is much to be loved about this holy war, since it pushes the technologies forward and the biggest winners are us, the developers and the users.

(I’m talking about hard-core RIA, not some lightbox image gallery which is still preferably done in HTML)

P.S.  Adobe isn’t a saint, but, everyone want to make some profit, even google, even us as I recall 😉 If you gain it morally and also use it to make something like the web better, than it’s fine with me. 

P.S.S aforementioned.

Guy A

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