Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Flash: Multimedia Embraces HTML 5

Posted on | July 28, 2010 | No Comments

Apple’s rejection of Adobe’s Flash for its iPhones, iPods and iPads helped to highlight the utility of HTML 5 for multimedia development on the web and in mobile devices. Steve Jobs in an open letter last April criticized the legacy media platform. He said it was power hungry, non-proprietary, lacking in security, unfriendly to mobile applications, non-touch, and just wrong for the future of multimedia applications development.

Check out the details of this image by Robert Gaal

Steve Jobs

Jobs recommended other established standards such as CSS, Javascript, H.264 for video, and HTML5.

Granted, one always has to consider the “reality distortion field (RDF)” in any Jobs pronouncement, but HTML 5 is picking up momentum. It wasn’t long before Microsoft announced it would support HTML5 in its new IE 9 browser; joining the ranks of Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, Firefox and Opera. The code is rather useless without the cooperation of the dominant browsers.

One controversial issue is the choice of H.264 video encoding technology which is problematic for Mozilla due to the patents filed in countries throughout the world. The open source browser doesn’t have the deep pockets of Apple, Google, and Microsoft and has pushed Theora video encoding technology instead. Is this an attempt to destroy the Mozilla Firefox browser?

Jobs disputed Adobe’s claim that much of the web’s video and games would not be accessible without Flash. He cited the adoption of HTML5 video players by major media websites like ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, Facebook, Flickr, Fox News, National Geographic, Netflix, NPR, People, Time, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even YouTube. Developers like the elimination of the awkward ‘Object’ tag which has been replaced with more focused and robust tags such as ‘video’ and ‘audio’ that allow them to add specific attributes for multimedia applications within web browsers. For example, the “onemptied” media event attribute specifies the script to be run at the conclusion of an audio or video file.

So a debate is on about the merits of Flash and potential of HTML5. Flash is striving to stay relevant. It has become H.264-compatible for example and works in some applications with touch interfaces. HTML 5 however, has broached Flash’s primary domain by incorporating scalable vector graphics and is challenging Flash’s strength in animation. Many developers are heavily invested in the Flash technology and will continue to use and defend it – but it’s likely that HTML 5 is a game-changer.

Anthony J. Pennings, PhD has been on the NYU faculty since 2001teaching digital media, information systems management, and global political economy. He can be reached at


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    Professor and Associate Chair at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea. Recently taught at Hannam University in Daejeon, South Korea. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, media economics, and strategic communications.

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