Flash “vs.” HTML: the shadowboxing continues

The shadowboxing between Flash and HTML 5 is getting pretty serious. A lot of people are using “HTML 5 video” as a shorthand for “non-Flash video technologies which HTML 5 facilitates,” and Adobe is clearly worried.

An article by Justin Nichols regards HTML 5 and Flash as competitors, and that article is showing a solid five-star rating on feeds.adobe.com, though it isn’t written by an Adobe employee, so it probably expresses a view that’s popular at Adobe. It refers to Flash as a “platform,” and that may be the key point; there’s an unstated suggestion that it can’t just live inside standardized HTML elements. But if it can’t, we’re in for still more rounds of browser incompatibility. Just as “the end of history” when the Soviet empire collapsed was a delusion, the “end of the browser wars” is most likely another.

A New York Times article on the lack of Flash on the iPad is entertaining for its disclaimer at the bottom. The body of the article says:

But concerns over the lack of Flash in the iPad and iPhone may be short-lived. Many online video sites have been experimenting with a new Web language that can support video, called HTML5. Unlike Flash, which is a downloaded piece of software that can interact with a computer’s operating system, HTML5 works directly in a Web browser. And although this new video format does not work in all browsers, it will allow iPhone and iPad users to enjoy more Web-based video content.

Then in a correction it notes that that was wrong:

An article on Monday about the absence of the multimedia software Flash in Apple’s new iPad tablet computer referred incorrectly to the Web language HTML5. While HTML5 can support video, it is not itself a video format. The article also misstated the ownership of HTML5 patents. HTML5, like other versions of Hypertext Markup Language, is open source; it is not owned by a group of companies, including Apple.

Can I hope they learned their error by reading this blog? Probably not. Even the disclaimer isn’t completely right; HTML 5 is a specification, not a program, so it’s meaningless to call it “open source.” Some implementations of it are open source, and others aren’t.

Standardization of the means of embedding video is a good thing. If that has Adobe worried it will face competition, that’s a good thing too.

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