Netly: The Third Screen

Why the Flash/HTML5 Debate Doesn’t Matter—Yet

Posted on: February 8, 2010

(See the Jeremy Allaire post here, and the Fred Wilson expatiation here.)

You can be sure there are no folks more deeply interested in the whole Flash/HTML5/native app tri-fork than those of us in the publishing business. That’s because we’re now trying to figure out exactly how to transition from those whizzy demos to actually manufacturing e-magazines every week. So which platform would you pick?

I desperately want to believe in HTML5 because it’s a neat solution. It stands to reason that the main reading platforms will come from Apple, on its OS, and Google on Android and Chrome. Since Apple and Google engineers are co-chairing the HTML5 working committee, you’d think it’s the answer to all our problems.

But HTML5 won’t be our salvation for years to come, I’m afraid—at least, not if we want to build large, rich, Web apps that work smoothly, everywhere.

The problem isn’t lack of IE support.

It’s bandwidth. As in: WiFi/3G is a crappy experience outside of the home and office, and it’s likely to stay that way for a long time. (“Long” = five years or more.) You get it on most airplanes. But it sucks. You get it in most hotels. But it frequently sucks. It doesn’t work in the subway at all and it’s frequently unavailable to passengers in cars. Even at work it can be a painful experience.

And there’s no way to fix this for years.

The more I think about this, and the more I learn about it, the more I think that native apps—good, ol’ apps, downloaded to hard drives, always available to users, regardless of connectivity— are going to be very hard to beat for the foreseeable future.

As for Flash, I think its days are numbered. As the iPad comes online, and the iPhone continues to plow the way, I suspect we’ll see lots of big websites quietly detecting Apple hardware and diverting users to H.264-enabled video “shadow” sites.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m looking forward to experimenting a lot more with HTML5. But I think it’ll be a long time coming.

2 Responses to "Why the Flash/HTML5 Debate Doesn’t Matter—Yet"

No way I’m nilly willy downloading native apps—they’re mostly bad, ol’ apps out there anyway, to my hard drive. If I do, it’ll be from sites that I trust alot, and there’s only a few. If I’m not connected, there’s no point being in front of a screen anyway. I use Opera Mobile and Skyfire, and both of these browsers pretty much allow me to access all kinds of websites on my phone.

I’d agree with you that there are rational reasons to keep the presentation and logic layers local, on the client, instead of sending it down with each “page”.

(Much of the video displayed by Adobe Flash Player these days is encoded as H.264. The Player’s other decoders include On2 VP6, also quite popular, and the successor to On2 VP3 (Ogg Theora).)


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