The IT industry is moving away from Adobe Flash and that is a good thing. The consolidation of browsers support with HTML5 and the ability to take advantage of hardware features will make it simpler and faster for software developers to build exciting new applications that work on phones, tablets, personal computers, televisions and everything in between.
The current reality, however, is we are still in the middle of that technological transition. Did you know that the HTML5 specifications are not even finalized yet? The W3C group – who creates web standards such as HTML – plans on moving from review to recommendation only at the end of 2014.
It is about technology
Flash has a long history of multimedia supremacy on the web. Even though Adobe announced they would stop developing new features, companies like YouTube decided to still use Flash by default except for devices that do not support it. Netflix plans on using Silverlight for the next 8 years. Facebook and LinkedIn decided to move away from HTML5 on mobile devices and instead use native apps, even though they do invest heavily in HTML5 and move toward it.
They all have good reasons; Flash still is installed on 95 percent of personal computers, it is shipped by default with Windows 8 and Chrome and most of all, it runs the same everywhere. Plus, they already have a mature solution in production.
HTML5 is quickly gaining adoption, but features are still very fragmented. As an example, basic Canvas support, a feature required for imaging, is supported on 83 percent of installed browsers. Blob support, another functionality used for efficient storage of image data, is at 78 percent. And to make matters worse, the same features work differently on different browsers and devices, making it very difficult for application developers to actually reach those percentages. Performance is also lagging behind, especially when compared to native apps.
On mobile devices, 86 percent of time spent is spent on apps, not in a web browser, and it’s rising (it is mostly spent on the Facebook app and in games with 52 percent of time spent). There is no consensus on a single approach to mobile development at the moment. For now and the upcoming years, we will have to deal with several technologies and channels.
Don’t forget what customers are asking for
When someone uses an online service, she doesn’t care what technology is behind it. Heck, many people think that the Internet and Google are the same thing! And that’s not an issue because for most of us businesses, it’s all about reaching and satisfying our customers. It means having a mobile website, maybe an app, and focusing on conversion and merchandising so that users don’t have to worry about technology.
In the near future, I expect HTML5 to take a very large share of web browsers and even hybrid native apps. We need to embrace that. For now, we need our legacy technologies to live through that transition, especially companies who have mature and appreciated products. Remember, where you will see a shiny new future-proof technology, your customers will simply see that some of the features they love were lost or changed in the process.
Not a problem, an opportuntity
There is a very strong mass movement toward HTML5 and native apps; for companies who invested heavily in Flash, moving away from it is already a must.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for companies to rethink and modernize their user interfaces, and review what features are truly important. Here’s my thought: Focus on mobile devices and tablets; that’s where it hurts the most, since it cannot run Flash at all. Until you have a solution that is as good or better than what you already offer on desktop, don’t throw your previous investments away by rushing it out.
About the author
Christian Rondeau is CIO at Mediaclip, a company that builds mass customization software currently transitioning from Flash to HTML5.