Is There Still a Need to Debate the Flash-versus-HTML5 Question?

on June 23, 2015


Theorem Inc.’s delivery head, Manuel Moreta, says it’s time for still-hesitant chief marketing officers to make a decision here.

Where do you stand in the great Flash-versus-HTML5 debate? Aren’t we past that debate? I’m not saying it’s not an issue, as I’ll explain. And yes, there are still reasons to be aware of and favor Flash. But HTML5 is really where you need to be right now. Why am I so sure? Let’s take a quick rearview mirror glance at the road so far and what’s led us here.

The fact that many of us still feel the market is split 50-50 between the two standards demonstrates that we live in an unequal browser world. In other words, not everyone is using a browser—or is supplied with an interface to the Web by their employer or organization—that can cope with HTML5.

As a result, we’ve gotten into the habit of seeing Flash as a kind of baseline, a universal standard: “If my ad serves Flash, then I won’t disappoint or annoy anyone.” That notion might show sensitivity to the market and it might indeed be a pragmatic position, but the next two years will make it less and less a tenable position. The reason is that the upgrades are finally happening, and everything we can do in Flash can and will be done in HTML5 instead. Inside that two-year time frame, even the most recalcitrant browsers will be caught up. (I actually think CCS3 is experiencing a parallel kind of uptake path, and I don’t know whether you’d agree with me there, but I’d like your thoughts.)

A post-Flash world is coming into view

Will Flash completely die? I’d like to say yes, because I think we need better functionality for digital assets. But even if it does become extinct, there’s still no need to let it act as a braking system on our work. I think we need to operate by a mind-set that sees some need for a Flash backup for, say, a banner image—just like we now usually have a backup JPEG image as a safety net.

Agencies should be choosing HTML5 as their preference in tech terms. You can and should start thinking of it as your best bet for multiplatform deployment of a digital asset—maybe keeping Flash as the default for the desktop version as a safety measure for some (I’d say, limited) time.

From an operational point of view, working with one standard is going to make life a whole lot easier, as you know. Plus, it’ll free you from a lot of constraints in terms of display; servicing one pack will be the most sensible—and economic—route to travel. Does that mean HTML5 represents a pain-free alternative? No is the simple answer. You’ll definitely need to put some effort into properly optimizing it for different devices; and remember that your build time may end up being a bit longer by working with HTML5 instead of Flash.

But for ads that work—and work well—and that look great and that deliver added value on more than one target device, HTML5 will be a better friend to you. That is my solid conviction. Don’t railroad this if the client doesn’t like it. Keep a Flash backup or option on tap—even if it’s a static image that could still work.

But: if you want to get to a one-pack, cross-platform unit and go the way the market as a whole is finally going, then HTML5 is definitely the card to play. No question there.

Kara DegeorgisIs There Still a Need to Debate the Flash-versus-HTML5 Question?