Tuesday, October 26, 2010

HTML5 and the Canvas element will not "replace Flash" and here's why

I do some web design stuff and as internet technology develops I need to be more and more of a developer as well. Coming from the design side though, I love Flash as a tool for making great moving graphics. Along comes HTML5, which many observers and people on the coding side of the web keep claiming will "replace Flash" or "kill Flash." After looking into the issue, I can firmly say that these claims are nonsense.

Here is the short summary: Flash is a program for creating moving graphics. The things you can create in Flash can be output to a format called SWF (ShockWave Flash, often called a "swiff") and your web browser uses a plug-in to run the SWF files. Flash can also output to other (much less efficient) formats, like Quicktime's MOV or animated GIFs. The new HTML5 has an element called canvas which you can basically draw on and add moving and responsive graphics to using JavaScript coding. The browser does all the work, no plug-in needed.

I would bet that the next version of Flash (or a related product from Adobe) will be able to output to canvas and JavaScript too! In fact, Adobe has already claimed that some kind of software (Flash or something like it) will be able to create Apple apps for iPhone, iPad etc. It is certain that they will have some product for creating fancy moving graphics using HTML5 and JavaScript, and it will probably be Flash.

Will the canvas element replace the Flash PLUG-IN? Maybe, but not entirely for a few years because the SWF format is just pretty far ahead in terms of what it can do. And Flash, the program, will not be going anywhere. It has little equivalent competition for what it does and it is very intuitive and deep and works very well. Adobe also has a program called Dreamweaver for creating all your HTML, CSS, JavaScript and anything else a web browser can handle. You could type this code out yourself in Notepad instead if you wanted to, or use one of many other programs, but still Dreamweaver is very popular because it's a great tool for getting the job done. Likewise, you can use a ton of programs to make a jpeg, but Adobe's Photoshop is popular because it's simply the most powerful. The Flash program will be in the same position.

There's this other issue of embedding video, which HTML5 can now do, but again, it can't do everything that Flash can. Regardless, my point is that Adobe makes great tools for creating graphics and the final FORMAT is not going to influence the popularity of their tools. Someone will probably be using their software to make the videos you're embedding. In fact, the more the web can support nice graphics, the better Adobe will do.

The latest news is that Apple computers will no longer come "with Flash." What they mean by this is that the Safari browser will not automatically include the Flash plug-in for rendering SWF files. Of course you could add it, or if you download another browser, like Firefox, you'll get it. Suspiciously, this announcement comes right along with the announcement of an App Store for Apple's computers - supporting the conspiracy theory that the reason behind Apple's anti-Flash position is that they want to sell you games as apps instead of having you play them for free as SWFs in your browser.

Ultimately it won't make a difference because you'll be able to make games and animation in your HTML5 canvas - and you might be using Flash to do it.

I may as well mention that I can do Flash or HTML(yes, 5) work, and I am available for hire. My Flash-based website is here:



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