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Should you learn Flash or HTML5?

  • Published on July 14, 2015
Should you learn Flash or HTML5?

Flash is the file format used in many online advertisements, web-based games, interactive books, and some video conferencing services. This week the security chief at Facebook, Rich McCormick, has suggested than an end-date be given to Flash, after which time it would no longer be supported. McCormick’s calls for an end to Flash come five years after Steve Jobs from Apple publicly disparaged the Flash file format as being bug-ridden, a security concern, and a battery-drain on mobile devices. Apple stopped supporting Flash on the iOS devices such as the iPad and iPhone. Even Google stopped relying on Flash for delivery of YouTube videos, making the move primarily to HTML5 video players.

The calls for an end to support for Flash from Facebook were the result of several previously unknown security vulnerabilities within the Flash Player, a plug-in that exists within a web browser that enables the interactive capabilities. Security vulnerabilities within Flash can allow a user’s computer or web camera to be taken over or spied upon by someone remotely. They are considered so severe that the producer of the Firefox web browser has completely blocked the use of Flash until they are confirmed to have been fixed by Adobe.

Recently HTML5 Video and CSS3 are being used more widely by developers, but in many cases Flash still delivers a smaller file size for web advertisements, provides an easy way to create animated and interactive content, and most importantly it remains supported by most desktop and notebook browsers. Because it is still an option for delivering advertisements and interactive media, web content producers, from advertisers to publishers, continue to use Flash. Despite the security vulnerabilities and lack of mobile support across iOS platforms, Flash has not been completely replaced by HTML5 and CSS3 simply because there has been no organized, Internet-wide push by browser developers to force a change. Even Firefox’s recent banning of Flash is only temporary, and it will be available to use once the known security issues are fixed.

While the number of students taking HTML5 training classes and advanced CSS courses outnumber those looking to learn Flash, there are still a surprising number of organizations that continue to develop content using Flash and will continue to do so until they are forced to abandon the technology.

Designers who don’t want to learn HTML5 and CSS3 can use visual design tools such as Adobe Edge Animate for creating interactive content, but those accustomed to advanced ActionScript controls within Flash will likely need to learn JavaScript and CSS 3 along with HTML5 to be fully productive with the format for interactive design that will slowly replace Flash.

Despite significant and ongoing security concerns, Flash continues to be used across the web. It is likely to remain a viable option for distributing interactive content for years into the future. While it is not the preferred format for interactive and web designers to use, it is a format and tool that designers in some organizations will need to know and understand. American Graphics Institute no longer recommends Flash courses unless they are working in an organization that continues to use Flash.

About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.