Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tag-Team Death Match: Flash & ActionScript V/S HTML5 & JavaScript


Much has been said about HTML5 and its proponent frequently compare HTML5 to Flash. Many of those proponents try to malign Adobe’s Flash in many ways. Neil Webb has already written a perfect article presenting his counter-points to HTML5 proponents.
HTML5 Applications are nothing without JavaScript. Similarly, Flash Applications are nothing without ActionScript.
I don’t wish to talk about how good or bad the features offered by HTML5 are when compared to Flash’s features.
Let’s see if you can use HTML5 in your projects today!

  1. Scripting Capabilities
  2. ActionScript is no doubt more powerful than JavaScript. Among many things that today’s JavaScript doesn’t offer you is handling of Byte Arrays, Creating Sound at Runtime, Creating Bitmaps/JPEGs, Drawing API, etc. HTML5 promises to bring pixel manipulation to JavaScript. That will help you in Creating Bitmaps. HTML5 also features a Drawing API. The pages with HTML5 will rely on JavaScript engine released by individual browser vendor. Compare that to ActionScript where only one vendor releases runtime for all the browsers and the vendor has proved in time’s face that they are good at it. Already, a handful of JavaScript engine’s are available: SpiderMonkey, Rhino, KJS, JavaScriptCore, V8. ActionScript is de-facto multiple browser compatible solution. Winner: Flash and ActionScript. ActionScript is miles ahead of JavaScript.
  3. Reach and support
  4. It is going to take at least 6 years for all browser vendors to get their HTML5 rendering engine in complete sync. And, “six” years is my optimistic estimation. I don't even want to comment on JavaScript runtime and CSS3 implementation. The next version of IE will probably be released with next version of Windows (maybe with Windows 8 and that will be at least four years from now: 2013). According to WHATWG wiki:
    It is estimated by the editor that HTML5 will reach the W3C Candidate Recommendation stage during 2012.
    And, that’s just Recommendation stage. Hell longer for adoption to reach the peak. Today, HTML5 is supported in latest versions of Firefox and Safari browsers. Making it appealing to some targeting users of these browsers. But Internet Explorer is the most widely used web-browser and it doesn’t support HTML5. Many users still use IE6 and many are inside organizations who have invested heavily in intranets making it impossible to upgrade to next version or new browser. Under gloomy economic situation I doubt that there be efforts on upgrading their webs. On the other hand, Flash runs on browsers of 98% of internet users. Also, Flash Player runs inside Internet Explorer 6 as well, making it possible to write cross browser application even today. Winner: Flash and ActionScript Flash will help you reach more users.
  5. Development, implementation and growth of HTML 5
  6. HELLO? Will the WHATWG committee ever move to HTML 6? Or will they keep changing HTML 5? The committee has not even reached a final-draft since its beginning in 2005. Going by the record of web standards committee, HTML project might end pre-maturely... Semantic Web, anybody? The current working group status says:
    "Expect to see big changes in the coming days and weeks."
    What that will mean to project using HTML 5 today? It might become erroneous when HTML “5” is changed. Can you use HTML5 in your project and keep changing your application because the Specs have been changed? With that pace, it looks like its going to take another 4 years just to finalize the specs and by then Microsoft would have already released Windows 8 with IE 9 sans HTML5. Who will maintain the progress of HTML5 and then take steps towards HTML6? On the other hand, Adobe has maintained a very fast pace in developing its Flash platform, rendering engines, Flash Player and ActionScript language. Winner: Need I tell you?
  7. Rendering
  8. There is no standard organization in the world that can keep all browser vendors happy and on the same page when it comes to rendering the markup on user’s screen. Going by browser vendors records, don’t expect your HTML 5 web application to look exactly the same in all browsers. Whatever will become of HTML5 and HTML6 (if we ever get there) will be a major mess. Winner: Flash and ActionScript! Flash is rendered exactly the same way in all browsers.
  9. Opt-out
  10. Today, when users or enterprises doesn’t want to run Flash on their computers they have the option of turning it off by disabling it, or by un-installing it. But when HTML 5 based banners and advertisements will rule the WWW, users will have no place to run to. Because the underlying browser will be running HTML 5 applications, shifting power from users to web developers, users will pretty quickly start avoiding sites using HTML 5. A powerful HTML application with HTML 5 or HTML 6 (if it all happens) will be as good or as bad as the web experience of Windows 98. It is going to be a nightmare when new advanced features of HTML will be abused. Users will have no option but to exit their browsers. Winner: Flash and ActionScript! Flash can be turned off.
As you can see, HTML5 is still just a “promise”. If you are going to start a web project today then Flash and ActionScript is the way to go.
There are many cool features coming from Adobe in future releases of Flash. You can should check them out at Adobe Labs.

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