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HTML5 vs. SWF


Adobe's response to the hostilities.
Which one to use? Isn't flash dead? Why are you using a technology that is no longer supported in mobile web Browsers? I get these Questions all the time.

Here are our best answers to the issue:

We have been told that flash is dead for the last 6 years and the discussion got pretty heated last year when Shantanu Narayen from Adobe and Alan Murray from Apple clashed very publicly on the issue of whether Flash's SWF's were so flawed that they had no place in the future of the mobil internet revolution.

We don't think so!

We don't want to get into the ins and outs of the issue. Let us look at the facts.

Flash revolutionized the internet. It allows highly complex app-like elements to run in any browser that has the plug in. The designer does not have to worry about which browser the consumer is using so long as the plug-in is installed. Since 2001 this has lead to a flood of innovation on the internet including popular internet games like Farmville, Zenga Poker, Bejeweled and so on. Even YouTube used to depend solely on SWF-technology to stream videos.

Issues arose when Apple and Android anounced in short order that they would no longer support the plug in in their mobile browsers, mobile being the key word. Nobody is keen on producing webcontent that does not work on a mobile phone or tablet. So everyone got very excited about doing things a different way.

HTML5 and the canvas tag were supposed to be the solution. The same ability to animate, and program complex online experiences seemed possible. No one would have to find a broken icon on their mobile phone since everything would be done compliant with web standards, approved by everyone.

So why not switch quickly and completely give up the old SWF format?

First of all the SWF format is hardly old. It only recently came into it's full potential. On the other hand the proposed solution in HTML and Javascript are as old as anything can be online.

Age aside, HTML and Javascript are somewhat at the mercy of the browser wars. Standards are not standardized at all and for each browser large lists of odditities have to be observed.

The greatest failing however is that the HTML5 canvas element simply does not work the way it was promised. The way scalable vector graphics are integrated is a joke at best and filesizes quickly are through the roof. This is hardly acceptable considering the already unreliable speed of the mobile browsing experience.

Worst of all, the content never plays with out a stutter in its mucky animation, unless of course you confine yourself to just bouncing around a few balls and boxes. We have scripted many test project for the canvas tag, but all in all what HTML5 does best is to illustrate how amazing flash really is.

In consequence examples of awesome HTML5 web content is sparse and developers have taken a detour to get their content to you.

Instead of the convenient access through a browser, flash content now comes overwhelmingly to your cellphone via apps. That's right! Many of the Apps you enjoy on the iPhone and other flash-opposing technologies are simply SWF's in an app clothing.

So the simple Answer to the hottly debated question “Why do you guys still work with Flash?”:

Because there is just no true alternative in sight. And why should there be? SWF's are awesome! Let's keep making them.

M. Faust