Video on the web is everywhere and even I, who dislikes YouTube as much as your granny dislikes your new boyfriend, cannot avoid the occasional odd encounter when people ask for specific effects they like on forums, pointing to those video references. Now for the most part, I really don’t care how it works as long as it works, but apparently some people do and that has lead to an ongoing debate of Flash vs. the rest of the World, or more specifically, Flash vs. HTML5. What really bakes my noodle, is how it calls people, who have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, on the playing field, resulting in such masterpieces as this Spiegel article, very obviously written by some Apple fanboy who got his iPad free with a press review kit. It is equally puzzling, to see everybody at Adobe enter the ring and offer their take on the whole matter. Should they? Are they not just providing cannon fodder for their opponents? What I’m really missing in that regard, is some bigger picture view instead of everybody is just defending his own little agenda. Now let me add my thoughts.
- HTML5 is not an "open standard" in the sense as many would like to believe. It’s neither an OpenSource project, nor does anyone do it for fun and the kindness of his heart. The WHAT WG is a consortium of representatives from big companies and their motivation is certainly not to make you have a good time on the web, but rather define standards that allow them to dump their "content" on you, so they can sell you shit or bombard you with advertising. Of course none of this matters, as long as you get your browser for free, but stop for a minute and think about why.
- At this point, the video tag in HTML5 is nothing but a placeholder for a rudimentary treatment of some of this content. Basically it just says "this is a video", nothing more. It isn’t even clear whether H.264 will become the standard video format and if it does, you are all going to pay for it by having to watch even more advertising so browser manufacturers get returns on the licensing fees they have to pay. Or someone comes up with something completely different and none of this matters in any way.
- Because of the previous point, HTML5 content initially will not be as rich as Flash. Or were you thinking all those fancy features you have become accustomed over the years come out of nowhere? Get real! Video players will look like old VCRs and not provide you with features like markers, comments, links or on-the-fly adjustments. More critically, since none of this is standardized beyond rudimentary playback buttons, you still won’t be able to have the same viewing experience on different sites.
- There is a difference between Flash as a technology and its crappy implementations as Flash (the authoring program) and Flash Player. Crashes and bad performance are signs of bad code, and that is that. There is no point in shifting blame around who is responsible for it – limitations in the browsers’ APIs are just as much part of the problem as are poorly done plug-ins. Yes, Adobe fucks up, but so does Apple. You know, Quicktime crashes just as much.
Of course all of that sounds quite a bit pro Flash, but think of it: Would you rather have a technology that you can use now and reach a lot of users, regardless of its flaws and limitations, or would you, just because you dislike someone’s technology monopoly, not use it? I know which one I would choose…