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HTML5 vs. Flash: A Complex Political Battle

A few days ago, I wrote about what the iPad means for web design. One of the most controversial issues is the effect Apple’s spurning of Flash will have on the future of that technology.

This subject has been written about widely, and often with lengthy comment streams. Much of the commentary, along the lines of "good riddance to Flash" and "HTML5 can do everything Flash can do", is emotional and ill-informed.

So I was delighted to read Jeremy Allaire’s The Future of Web Content – HTML5, Flash & Mobile Apps post on TechCrunch. I highly recommend you go read the entire article, but here are a few key quotes:

"This is not about ‘what is the right technical solution’, it is about the political economy of who controls the formats that in turn lead to owning downstream audience and monetization opportunities."

"The basic idea behind HTML5 video is that there would be a common video format that could be placed and rendered into any compatible web browser… But there are enormous challenges with this, some political, some technical and some based on audience behavior."

"… in the context of hand-held computing, where Apple is politically motivated to block the Flash runtime, it is apparent video publishers will be driven to build and operate solutions that leverage HTML5 Video on mobile and iPad browsing environments."

"While it is easy to take a binary position in the future of content applications and run-times, it is evident that the competing interests of platform vendors, consumers and app and content publishers will ensure that this remains a fragmented and competitive environment for many years to come."

I think this is spot on.

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