Flash, HTML5, and Mobile Apps

About a year ago, I wrote a post about Apple's "blind spot" for Flash. I took more heat for that post than anything else I've written here other than political posts. It opened my eyes to the fact that Flash vs HTML5 is one of the most politically heated topics in the tech business. The third rail, as it were.

The choice of what technology web developers use to produce rich browser based applications is a big deal with a lot of important ramifications for companies, investors, and most importantly users. Jeremy Allaire, creator of ColdFusion and Brightcove, addresses this issue today on TechCrunch.

It's an excellent post full of great facts and insights, including this one:

What few people realize is that while H.264 appears to be an open and free standard, in actuality it is not. It is a standard provided by the MPEG-LA consortsia, and is governed by commercial and IP restrictions, which will in 2014 impose a royalty and license requirement on all users of the technology. How can the open Web adopt a format that has such restrictions? It can’t.

Jeremy predicts that "Google will make an end-run on this by launching an open format with an open source license for the technology, which according to industry experts delivers almost all of the same technical benefits as H.264."

If you are a web developer, entrepreneur, or investor, I suggest you go read Jeremy's post in full. It's very good.

If you don't plan to read it, I'll summarize. Jeremy makes two big points. The first is that HTML5 vs Flash is not a winner take all battle (at least for many years). He predicts that for web apps, we'll see more and more developers move to HTLM5. But for video, gaming, and other "immersive" applications, we'll see developers sticking with Flash for a long time.

His second point is that the desktop web and the mobile web are going to play out very differently. He says:

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.

When it comes to HTML5 vs Flash, there are technical arguments, economic arguments, and political arguments. And, unfortunately, the political ones carry a lot of weight.

Jeremy outlines the political agendas of two of the big players in this battle:

a web-centric, HTML5-centric handheld world favors Google because it can leverage it’s existing dominance in search and web advertising. A proprietary App-centric universe favors Apple because it can become the primary gatekeeper to reaching the mobile audience and already has a pole position in integrating payments and advertising into content applications.

I know where I personally come out in this fight. I much prefer a "web-centric handheld world" to a "proprietary app centric universe". And that's why I carry a Google phone instead of an iPhone. For me, it's a political statement as much as anything else.

Someday soon, I'll be reading a blog on my Google phone and I'll come upon a video in a Flash player and I'll be able to hit play and watch it on my phone. That's apparently not going to happen in Apple's "proprietary app centric universe". 

The good news for all of us is that no one company is going to dictate how this plays out. Jeremy says in the wrapup of his post:

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

Regardless of whose political camp you are in, we can all agree that a competitive environment is best. Even if it means a more complicated development environment.

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#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. DGentry

    Absolutely. Of course, these shifts happen slowly, because there is little incentive to make them happen quickly. Sites offered the same content encoded with RealPlayer, WMV, and Quicktime formats for a very long time, only dropping older formats when the demand no longer justified the effort. They’ll offer both an embedded flash widget and an HTML5 <video> tag for a long time too, depending on client capabilities.The thing which could force a quick transition is the h.264 licensing terms. That seems settled for a few more years, but when fees are imposed it can cause a rapid shift. GIF rapidly disappeared from high-traffic sites when Unisys asserted patent licensing requirements.The TechCrunch article is very good. It takes a long time to let all the details sink in.

    1. fredwilson

      i re-read it a few times before i totally got it

  2. Bora Celik

    We have started replacing Flash with jQuery in our web apps. jQuery has been gaining a lot of traction and over the past year especially added a ton of new functionality that allows it to be considered as a perfectly viable alternative to Flash.jQuery is open source, so you’re not dependent on one vendor. The community innovates. Also it’s standards based, as well as much more light weight than Flash. Here is a good link that shows some capabilities of jQuery: http://webdesignledger.com/…I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more Flash based apps/games etc to convert to jQuery over the next few years.

    1. fredwilson

      that would be great

    2. Rurik Bradbury

      jQuery is a very limited way to add widgets to Web apps — neat for some basic functionality, but a pale imitation of Flash. Only in a very small number cases is it a ‘perfectly viable alternative to Flash’.

      1. rafer

        Ever read any Clayton Christensen? Barely functional open/cheap competitors are exactly what wins, while the incumbent technology’s advocates stand their slackjawed saying, “But, but, that new crap barely works.”

        1. Mark Essel

          I keep seeing that name, I think I should start reading me some Mr. Christensen

          1. fredwilson

            you shouldstart with the innovator’s dilemmahttp://bit.ly/aHlFOH

          2. Mark Essel

            Grabbed the kindle edition and fired it at my phone. That darn thing should be getting heavier with all those books in it by now :D. Another closed environment, but still an upgrade over carrying a library.

          3. Bora Celik

            Ah this book was required reading back in the day at our Boston Univ, Innovation and Technology MS program, I think for one of the disruptive tech classes. Liked it a lot.

          4. petekazanjy

            E.g. “Why the hell would anyone ever pay $100 per gigabyte for hard drive storage in a 2.5″ diameter hard drive, when you can get it for $1 a gig in the 3.5″ diameter drive? That’s just stupid.”Answer: because at 2.5”, you can FIT IT IN YOUR POCKET. 200m+ ipod sales agreed with this tradeoff.(This is a sample case study from Innovator’s Dilemma)

          5. rdgb

            That’s a good example because it highlights the fundamental point in HTML5 vs Flash: use cases. The 2.5in drive opens up new use cases.jQuery is a great tool for certain effects and interactions and can replace Flash in many instances — but it also fails in many use cases.

        2. rdgb

          almost every decent web site uses jquery already — this is no revelation. just like almost every site which requires rich interaction uses Flash.all three of the sites I run marketing for use jQuery, and all three use Flash for things jQuery will never be able to do: clickable video; interaction with hardware; 3D effects and transitions; etc.it’s not Honda vs Ferrari, where the Christensen idea applies — it’s Vespa vs Honda, where Christensen’s framework is not meant to apply. in most instances, it’s a totally different use case.

          1. rafer

            That’s not the comparison I was attempting to make. JQuery’s separately part of the equation, but orthogonal to this particular issue.Flash is the Ferrari and HTML5 video is the Vespa. HTML5 will get dismissed by a variety of people with entrenched interests due to the H.264 vs Ogg silliness, the fact that browsers must keep improving, etc. However, html5 video on current browsers already handles 2 of the 3 exceptions you raise above. Mediocre, cheap, underfeatured, and disregarded. Perfect.

  3. sass

    Jeremy’s post was great, and as you noted, smartly covered both technical and institutional/political issues. In the end, I think the web has to win as the web is the great equalizer, with the ability to ensure consumers a consistent experience across all devices, large and small. Eventually, I believe the concept of “mobile” goes away, and it is just about having access to “your stuff,” whatever that stuff may be, and whatever device you may be choosing to use at the moment.

    1. fredwilson

      i sure hope the concept of “mobile” goes away

      1. David Gillespie

        Agreed, and I think that’s exactly what is going to happen – we’ll stop talking about screens and just talk about services. While they might be poles apart right now, Google is surely planning on bring Android and the Chrome O/S closer together, and eventually the same thing. People decry the potential demise of Moore’s law, but don’t stop to see it has just jumped from the desktop to the device in your pocket, which will eventually even everything out.The web is the web (or at least it will be), regardless of which looking glass you have to view it with.

      2. rafer

        Do you want the concept of mobile to go away or the concept of desktop to go away?

        1. fredwilson

          all of them. just the web.

  4. steve cheney

    Great write-up. I wrote about the Google vs Apple Flash issue as it relates to in-app advertising a few days ago. No question Apple want to control the in-app advertising model and supplement developer revenue with iTunes and micropayments.http://stevecheney.posterou…I think your summary on the fragmentation being actually good in mobile is an insightful conclusion – not what we’d have expected but – to your point – looks increasingly like this fight could actually help consumers.

  5. im2b_dl

    Fred Perhaps I am wrong…but I don’t think so. Jeremy has a lot of skin in the game. OggTheora and HTML5 together are right now going through a “coming out process” (with indie filmmakers and independent content creators) If the content creators adopt those (as I see happening when they understand what is at stake for control of their own product and career viability) much of jeremy’s point will be leveled by content that is vast carrying these open standards. Content leads eyes. I know lots of powers that be want to keep the power in the delivery..but in the end if independent content creators encircle an open delivery system as they grow to understand this all… the big guys like Comcast, NBC, etc etc will follow… because they need quality content (and it’s advetising and eyeballs) coming out of that “farm” …and I and a few other standard bearers of that industry…are totally focused on educating them quickly

    1. fredwilson

      i’m fine with the fact that he has a lot of skin in the gameno conflict, no interestjust disclose the conflict up front

      1. im2b_dl

        i agree… but he has a LOT of skin in the game. lol Little like Jack Welch weighing in on why the NBC/Comcast deal should go through. ; )

        1. fredwilson

          there was a comment on my “advocacy” post yesterday that basically said that the people in the battle should be the ones advocating their positions, not hired lobbyists, etcso i really like the idea of jack welch weighing in on NBC/Comcast (and boxee too!)

          1. im2b_dl

            I agree. I just don’t think people really realize what and whose skin is in the game. I think what might have been more helpful is the bigger discussion of how O2 and Ogg Theora will be the main discussion…not HTML5 vs. Flash. The future (by anyone’s close analysis) is relatively weak for flash but again.. a lot of skin in the game so his debate points are going to be Flash supportive.

  6. David Semeria

    Apple is so totally going to lose this one. It’s just a question of waiting for mobile browsers to get a little more native access (not much longer to wait now…)

    1. Mark Essel

      Right On David! Looking forward to that native access time from my eager web mobile developer eyes.Btw I’ve begun to feel some sorrow when I see the earlier developers icons fade while watching Twitter Code Swarm.

      1. David Semeria

        Ah, the cycle of life Mark…

        1. Mark Essel

          Hehe, of course.

        2. awaldstein

          “oh bla di oh bla da”

  7. John Minnihan

    I agree with you Fred – open is good. I was surprised to read of – just yesterday in fact – the licensing fees associated with use of h.264 at each end of the cycle (producer & consumer).This stopped me dead in my tracks. I’d seriously believed – prior to to digging in & researching it – that h.264 was free & unencumbered by any restrictions of any kind. That clearly isn’t the case.If the Borg… err, I mean Google, does develop an open implementation, both the spec & the container, that would be good.

  8. Elia Freedman

    I have spent way too much time emerged in mobile computing (13 years) and have been a follower and commentator on the market. While I agree that this Flash v. HTML5 v. native app thing is particularly interesting — and we are too making lots of decisions here — I don’t agree with Jeremy’s assessment of Apple’s position. Personally, I think Apple cares about controlling the user experience, not the delivery mechanism, and it can’t do that with Flash because it can’t fix/modify/control it where it can control the native app experience (which it does) and contribute to/advance the HTML5 experience (which it does).The world will be mobile. That’s the reality. It is already believed by many that there is more browsing on mobile browsers than desktop and PC ones. My feeling is web developers are going to take the low-hanging fruit and stick with it. WebKit support H.264 and WebKit is quickly becoming the dominant mobile browser technology. So why would sites producing and showing video use anything else? I think other formats — specifically referring to showing video — will be the “and it also uses…” rather than the other way around. As an example, YouTube is starting to convert to both.Of course, this is specifically a conversion about video. When it comes to app development, it is clear to me that the future is HTML5/JavaScript. It has to be.

    1. fredwilson

      apple does care intensely about the user experiencebuying a mobile app on the iPhone is such a better experience than buying one on the Google phonebut when i buy on the Google phone, i get the sense that i’m in control and when i buy on the iPhone i get the sense that apple is in controlapple has a very paternalistic approach. and as a parent of two young adults coming of age, i have learned that paternalism isn’t always best

      1. John Minnihan

        I’m reminded of something I wrote a while back (in the context of Apple’s placing Safari & QT in Apple Software Update app that Windows users saw):”This is ALL about revenue. No one wants to get blind-sided like they did with Adobe’s shockwave / flash player. By the time anyone figured out what Adobe (nee Macromedia) had done, the player was on 90+% of the desktops. Talk about a channel.”The theme here is *control*. Apple will control the experience, the content & ultimately the revenue, by tightly controlling the channel.

      2. William Mougayar

        But aren’t there nuances of “control”, i.e. it’s about what level of control we are talking about. I think Apple/iPhone will continue to appeal to those who are OK with that, whereas another segment wants a different kind of control. I’m not defending Apple necessarily. This is just an observation. For e.g. when some complained that the iPad doesn’t have Flash or a camera. Well, those users that Apple is targeting probably don’t care or won’t even notice that. I think Apple understands user segmentation really well. They are a marketing-driven company. Their moves are well calculated as they can’t afford mistakes. Google can afford to throw stuff out there, and see what gets traction or not.

        1. Elia Freedman

          “Google can afford to throw stuff out there, and see what gets traction or not.”Yes, and develop a lot of half-baked, never-to-be-completed or supported software in the process.

        2. Mark Essel

          Sure thing William. I suggested my fiance Michelle grab an iMac (I wanted one too) just because of ease of use and setup. But now that I refreshed my desktop with ubuntu linux, besides a few minor issues I’m loving linux. No iTunes, and my mx518 logitech mouse needed some special configuration. Chrome is still a little flaky too (but that would happen on a mac too).

          1. William Mougayar

            Yup. Macs are unbeatable from a usability perspective.I would like to see them gain more PC market share.

      3. Elia Freedman

        It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Apple has basically said, if you want to develop native you have to play by our rules and our rules aren’t particularly transparent. If you don’t then develop HTML5/JS apps. But they aren’t going to let us develop Flash apps. For that matter they won’t let us develop Ruby apps, either.I, too, would prefer a little less paternalism. But I don’t think Apple really cares so much about you and me. I think Apple cares more about the people outside technorati who are buying these devices. Those folks don’t care about multi-tasking and while they do care about Flash, my guess is Apple would rather not get the blame for its bugs and weaknesses, which it does all the time on the desktop.Of course, they need us to write apps but their feeling is probably true. 50 million or so devices is an awful lot of devices for a developer to pass up.

        1. Mark Essel

          “I think Apple cares more about the people outside technorati who are buying these devices.”Totally agree.

        2. awaldstein

          Well said.Apple is (and has always been about) making technology so easy and so compelling that it drives adoption without understanding and lifestyle change for the masses.Religion for Apple is not ‘Openness’ it is ease of use and mass market empowerment.The beauty of this discussion is that Apple has proved the market, defined the bar for ease of use, shown that people will pay.But they’ve left a market larger than the one they can possibly conquer for a host of open, non hardware dependent folks to inherit and prosper in.Success of Android is not based on Apple’s demise. Quite the contrary IMHO.All of this I see as goodness and opportunity.

        3. raycote

          Freedom my friends is a double edged sword! There is FREEDOM TO and FREEDOM FROM.If you simply focus only on absolute rights, where every citizen has unlimited FREEDOM TO do what ever they wish, then be prepared to put up with other people’s right to run rough shoot over what you might want, when ever it suits them.If you simply focus only on absolute rights, where every citizen has unlimited FREEDOM FROM the negative behavior of others, then be prepared to live in a stifling maze of social constraints.Most modern societies are populated with educated citizens who realize the futility of such simplistic black and white polemics. Modern democratic societies are constantly working the balance point between the FREEDOM TO and the FREEDOM FROM, between the RIGHTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL and RIGHTS OF THE GROUP!This is why most people like to live in democracies. In theory, at least, democracies offers us the opportunity to focus the will of the majority, via admittedly somewhat imperfect democratic governance models, to debate where we want to place that ever so important tipping point between:THE INTERESTS/RIGHTS/FREEDOMSOF THE INDIVIDUALandTHE INTERESTS/RIGHTS/FREEDOMSOF THE GROUP.Apple to must struggle with this complexity of balancing between the interests of it’s commercial partners, itself and it’s customers. Apple is not a democracy. It is a corporation and like all corporations it’s first priority is to it’s shareholders. This requires that Apple make a business decision and commit to setting a balance or tipping point betweenTHE INTERESTS/RIGHTS/FREEDOMSOF IT’S INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPERSandTHE INTERESTS/RIGHTS/FREEDOMSOF IT’S CUSTOMERS AS A GROUP.This tipping point is a corporate judgement call. Each company consciously or unconsciously sets this tipping point. Apples is keenly aware of the importance that this process has on the over all customer experience. Apple has chosen, rightly or wrongly, to set this tipping point where it will be most comfortable and beneficial to the average DIGITAL APPLIANCE consumer. Unfortunately this is out side the comfort zone for most of us, digital geek, gadget loving, pocket protector crowd that tend to populate these tech blog comment dungeons. I must say, I rather enjoy these dungeons, in a way they are the embodiment of my own personal comfort cave! That said most of my family and friends and dare I say most people are not that interested in us and our tech talk. Every once an a while we should remember to tap into our THIRD EYE, zoom way out, and remind ourselves of this larger social perspective. I know I don’t do this often enough because my lovely wife generously reminds me. Like they say, we get by with a little help from our friends!

        4. raycote

          On second thought, let me rephrase what I just posted below, in shot form.I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU!Now that might save someone from wading through the long winded version below.

      4. vruz

        I have learned paternalism is never best.

        1. raycote

          @VRUWI too, tend to be very suspicious of paternalism in general. But I also subscribe to the maxim, never say never. There are different flavors of corporate control. Corporate institutions by goal and design must follow some strategy to maximize control over their marketplace impact and by extension control over their bottom line profits.To paraphrase John Minnihan’s points above—————————–Apple’s strategy for controlling it’s marketplace impact/bottom line profits is to focus on strategic control over the complete end user experience, via hardware, software and content integration, tightly controlling the channel end to end.—————————–Google’s strategy for controlling it’s marketplace impact/bottom line profits is to focus on strategic control over a massive social geometry of captive eyeballs, via the collection and delivery of massive amounts of ultra useful data, massaged conveniently into everyone daily life all camouflaged as free.Lets not be to romantic here. Both are executing a corporate control strategy.BOTH STRATEGIES HAVE SERVICES AND DISSERVICES FOR THE DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDERS!Which strategy is best and which will win in the marketplace is not a fore gone conclusion. There may well be room for both. The market for digitally executed virtual processes seems to me limitlessly large, only limited by our collective human creativity, oh….oh…..wait…..and that other little problem of resource limitations but lets not go there now.The main questions as I would frame them are?- Which corporate strategy is more sustainable, meaning which strategy is more resistant to commoditization.- Which company is best positioned to muscle in on the other’s strategy.Obviously both strategies will be commoditized in the long run.Now that long run would be really really long if the two companies were to merge :-)No worries, anti-trust and incompatible corporate cultures belie my ridiculous attempt at humor.Now, I am not married to what follows. It is just the perspective that occurred to me first. I’m still thinking on the flip side perspective.But maybe Google’s, UBER MAN IN THE MIDDLE, ad revenue control strategy will be easier to commoditized and/or muscle in on?Just maybe Google has been to clever by half! Google is flying high right now. It was the most clever of all the first movers at arbitraging the resale value of their search gateway captive eyeballs to advertisers by leveraging the value of their very excellent search service to web surfers. Google gives nothing to users for free. They are paid at windfall profit levels by the advertisers. Like all other high margin middle man arbitraging operations, it is just a matter of time before the forces at each end point of the arbitrage value chain start looking at ways to commoditize and eliminate the high margins extracted by that monopoly middle man. The web offers so many possible partnering pathways by which to accomplish this dethroning. The most obvious is a direct payment from advertisers directly to the very eye balls that are willing to put up with the ads in order to receive something for free. That something for free, could be content/services like books, magazines, newspapers, music, movies, search, maps, online apps from Google, Microsoft or others. That something for free, could also be extended to even more appealing things like free wireless data plans or subsidized/free mobile devices paid directly to those, end user eye balls, by the advertisers for tolerating ads embedded into all manner of services/webpages in exchange for said freebies. Now if device sellers like Apple, Android Brands, Dell, HP, Nokia, Motorola and other could guaranty the delivery of those ads via hardware lockdown methods that eliminate ad blockers…you get the picture. What if customers don’t want those annoying ads? It is the customers choice! Just pay a subscription fee to the device control agent man, this subscription fee then replaces the embedded ad revenue that perviously supported your free/subsidized content/services/hardware and the ads are then striped out by the lockdown-hardware. The subscription fee payments from end users can then be divvied up to the content/service/hardware providers as a replacement for the lost ad revenue, with the pay outs to the content/service/hardware providers being based on content consumption logs. All content/services/hardware can then be subsidized/free or fully paid, at the consumer’s option! Everybody wins, the content/service/hardware providers get paid for their goods via a proportional centralized payment schema, the advertisers get willing end users with guaranteed ad delivery and the end users get a full range of choices from fully paid to fully ad subsidized content/services/hardware. Now this is all just fantasy and wishful thinking on my part. I would love the option to pay a global single centralized subscription fee for valuable groupings of digital media and services. This would allow me to paying fair value to content providers without suffering a constant barrage of ads or being overloaded with micropayment bookkeeping. This fantasy rant was mostly triggered by the fact that Apple has, of late, taken out patents on just such hardware/software ad delivery lockdown technologies and is building out a very large server farm facility. These facts are almost certainly coincidental but still we can dream the dream that out of this chaos will come order!This dream is not in support of Apple or any other particular corporate player. It is a dream to disinter-mediate as many unproductive middle men out of the system as possible. Leaving a lean minimalist community of useful productive players. With digital products, most all value chains break down to just three players.- Content creator- digital delivery agent- consumerLets take the book industry as an example.The old production chain =- author/content creator- author’s agent- publisher- printer- distributor- retailer- reader/consumer.The new chain = – author/content creator- digital delivery agent- reader/consumerWith enough marketing time under the bridge and much futile struggle and resistance by the old business model players, all digital product chains will be likewise reduced.video producer –> digital delivery agent –> viewsmusic artists —-> digital delivery agent –> listenersbook author —-> digital delivery agent —> readersnewsprint ——> digital delivery agent —> readersSoftware ——-> servers ————–> UsersSpoke the Queen of DreamsI had no head for heightsBut close my eyes to make the climbOh Queen of DreamsOh Queen of SoulsOh Queen of HeadsIt’s time.Time to ask if anyone here is old enough to identify the band’s name?No Google lyric searches, hope springs eternal to intercept a tunneling anomaly!

      5. Michael Kogan

        I am not sure, I am not a techie or a technology lover. I found it extremely easy to buy apps or download free ones on the iPhone and the ease with which it happens makes me feel like I am in control. Does that make sense? Once I lost my car keys at a playground where I was with my kids and it got dark, so I downloaded a flashlight app in 30 seconds and found my keys.

        1. fredwilson

          it’s a very powerful model that apple uses and provides great value. but they are in complete control of it

          1. Michael Kogan

            Absolutely. But the issue is, developers have to adjust to the realities of a mobile device – a web page will not look and feel the same on a small screen mobile device as on a 8 monitor PC. So they will have to do something special to give the user a seamless and pleasant experience. Well, creating a special iPhone app is basically nothing but that – a way to deal with the realities of how the user is acessing the web.

  9. Andrew_from_iHearditOn

    Interesting implication to this choice by Apple is that they’ve isolated the music blogosphere, who find and post tracks in flash or in flash videos. Add in the fact that so far, the audio quality of the iPad is rumored to be poor (from those I’ve read who have played with it), and it’s unclear why anyone who finds, shares, and discusses music online would want to use an iPad for that purpose. This should be the most exciting device for interacting and engaging with rich media, and Apple has walled off its users from engaging with the most popular format in which new music, and more generally music, can be found online.

    1. ErikSchwartz

      Apple wants to encourage the majority of music discovery to be via iTunes, not via blogs.

      1. Andrew_from_iHearditOn

        Obviously – you’re missing my point. People aren’t going to iTunes for new music (Hype Machine is evidence of that), and they’re not going to iTunes for new music videos (Vevo is evidence of that), so why would they change because of one device? When flash has 99% penetration in mature markets? It’s a bad bet by Apple, filled with hubris.On a related point, the problem with his complaint about flash in Safari is that any bugginess may equally reflect problems with the Safari browser at a time when the Chrome browser is making inroads into the market. And you don’t hear Google complaining about Flash….

        1. ErikSchwartz

          The question is why does the iTunes music store exist? Apple sells music (at essentially break even, ITMS gets it’s marketing budget from the iPod/iPhone) in order to lock people into their hardware platform where they make 50% gross margins.They want you to buy music from them so that in 6 months when you need a new phone/mp3 player it is a massive pain in the ass to get something other than an apple device.

          1. Mark Essel

            And that’s why all services need to be open data. Open formats provide the user with choice down the road. Customer lock in must die the quick death. It’s a terrible business format. them:”You’ll stay with us because you can’t leave”us:”F U”

        2. ShanaC

          Actually, I don’t know how people outside of here are discovering music. It could be from passed on music (aka This is good, you should try it) Facebook (that’s happened to me), all sorts of ways. ITunes may be taking control of that market through just the fact that we don’t know how music is passed on!

    2. fredwilson

      great point. i am a huge fan of streaming audio, which is largely flash based. with their “stiffarm” of flash, they’ve irritated me and i guess a few others

      1. wilhelmreuch

        being an audio guy I know that many of the these sites are further along than the video sites. here many of them is already actively working on flashfree alternative players (in javascript). They have not missed coming invasion of mobile devices, almost none with useable flash-players (remember these things dont run at desktop speeds – flash will not always be pretty).dont forget – the websites dont care much for supporting adobe. they live for the visitors they can attract. and it seems this has now reached critical mass – this is now a priority for them. this is not a political issue – it is a simple business matter. allaire is wrong.

        1. fredwilson

          Like mp3s with drm, the brand damage has been done

        2. perpetuity

          That’s the key point. It doesn’t matter what percentage of who uses flash currently … it just doesn’t matter. Things will continue to evolve. The flash players you encounter on the web are players, they are not the content, nor the container for the content. Aside from DRM questions content containers should be closer to the surface of the delivery technology. Currently we have http/html/files then we wrap some of them in flash simply because older specs of html and file containers didn’t have universal ways to access them. it’s clear isn’t it, that flash doesn’t have a long term future in being a wrapper and player for content which can be accessed directly. flash’s future in being a platform is a different game and one which has more of a chance.

          1. fredwilson

            clearly there are other and surely better ways to present the content than flash and things will evolve as you outline.but it does matter what percentage use flash today because all the content that is currently presented with flash is not viewable (or listenable in the case of audio) on devices/software that don’t support flashas a user of the web, it matters a lot to me right now

          2. perpetuity

            fair point.my hyperbole should have came with disclosures … :)– Large/medium players: will they ignore the non-flash (Apple mobile) platforms? Why would they so long as cost isn’t the factor? A few lines of code to deliver the H.264 version instead of the H.246 wrapped in Flash delivery plugin and I can imagine Hulu arriving on the iPad. Google has embraced it and anything I have visited lately (even very fresh content) on YouTube is available without flash. Vimeo is there, but are they large?– Blogosphere/thosemusicblogsfordiscovery/video embeds: If the enthusiasm did not exist to deliver content in the first place none of this would exist. WordPress — seems like a jewel doesn’t it? Look at the energy there and you know this community will embrace and push ahead to make it simple for the users to build a compliant delivery tool. After all, the people creating the sites are merely pointing the Flash wrapper to an MP3 somewhere else on the net! The missing link is rights management but most of the cool stuff doesn’t care, just the big stuff and they will figure something out if they want to be in the space.– casual flash games: this is the other shoe people speak of in this discussion. i haven’t seen it be a problem for my 9 yr old with his iPod touch. “Oh, you can’t load this… that doesn’t work on the iPod, but hey, look at all this, much of it free, in iTunes” … now he still loves MiniClip but he’s always coming to me for the iTunes password for another install of a casual game. The few flash games I’ve loved have made it to the platform as well.It’s interesting to think of the iTunes store dis-intermediating a model (flash games) which was itself still dis-intermediating models. I’m not aware enough of revenue models for these casual games on sites like Kongregate, etc … vs. iTunes but it seems iTunes is more straight forward.All that said, I’ve been using ClickToFlash or the FF equivalent for a long time, and I surf a lot on my iPhone and there isn’t that much I miss or can’t use. Fancy charts at Google Finance πŸ˜‰ maybe … but hey.

  10. William Mougayar

    In spite of all this, what are we to make of Steve Jobs commenting that Flash is buggy? I’m just asking, as I don’t know the real truth. Is this an excuse, or is it true?”Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.”http://www.wired.com/epicen…

    1. Elia Freedman

      Whether it is politics or scuttlebutt, there is talk in Mac circles that over 50% of the Safari crashes are Flash related. There has also been a lot of talk about Flash’s impact on CPU usage. And then the bugs:http://www.tuaw.com/2010/02

      1. William Mougayar

        So, that 16 months explains Steve Jobs’ reference to Adobe being “lazy”. Interesting, but I think there is more to it. Apple vs Adobe backstabing has been going on for a while.

    2. perpetuity

      Flash on the Mac platform has been crummy for it’s entire existence … from a performance stand point mainly but also in the bugginess factor. Developers have always known this and it doesn’t take much digging to find the threads of wondering/begging/derisiveness at when Adobe might deliver a better Flash for the Mac.As for the supposed statistics? I’m guessing it’s the good old Crash Reporter doing some of the gathering. I certainly have sent in reports after Safari crashes, typically when encountering a page with the Flash plugin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wik

  11. Shahar Nechmad

    The big fight for Adobe is not just about video but about the ads. Currently almost every interactive ad out there is based on Flash. This is the really big market where Adobe want to play and one of the reasons to acquire Omniture for such a big amount of money.And here is also where Adobe still has an advantage – their developers tool set. Flash s not just the engine. It’s also a full product that already went through many iterations that allows for easy development of animations, movies and interactions.If I was Adobe I would consider coming out with a new version that allows you to export your movie (which can also be an ad or an app) as a fully compliant HTML 5 code. By doing so, Adobe could still control the point of engagement, keep their Macromedia products revenue stream and introduce new ones for measurement and advertising using Omniture.

    1. ShanaC

      Oh can’t forget AIR as well in this. Nothing like knowing you can put in measurement tools in an application- especially those applications that lead back to an advertisement…

      1. Mark Essel

        Side note Aptana RadRails has new AIR support – yippy πŸ˜€ (and a git plugin for eclipse).

        1. David Semeria

          Another side note. I’m seeing a lot more ‘likes’, now that that likee’s name shows up…I’m sure there’s a social interaction lesson in there, somewhere….

          1. Mark Essel

            We like to see that we liked stuff. Ahh the end of anonymous likes. I’ve been a gratuitous liker for a while. I enjoyed rearranging comment sections since no one else seemed to use it. But it was too much power for one man πŸ˜‰

  12. Michael Pinto

    Flash is more than just video β€” it contains a somewhat easy to use programming language which allows folks who don’t know Object C to do thinks like make videogames online. I’ll grant you that this is just a niche, but even as a niche the casual games market is huge: For example it’s the main form of content on kids sites (like the Cartoon Network). It took quite a few years for ActionScript (the programming language for Flash) to become something real β€” so by killing Flash we’re going back a step. And honestly I don’t see Google coming up with anything like it.

  13. paulith

    “A proprietary App-centric universe favors Apple because it can become the primary gatekeeper”Strictly speaking that’s true, but if you develop your applications to be web HTML5/AJAX applications than Apple isn’t so much a gatekeeper as it is with it’s app store. Besides it was Apple who was pushing for web-based applications when they first launched the iphone, but the market insisted they come out with native apps. Be careful what you wish for.

    1. Geoff McQueen

      Is it going to be possible to build interactive, casual and arcade style gaming websites in HTML5? Video is important, but when it comes to selling apps through their store, I reckon games and other more interactive experiences are more important to apple retaining its control over the user experience – so they can profit.

    2. raycote

      THIS BLOG STATES:I know where I personally come out in this fight. I much prefer a “web-centric handheld world” to a “proprietary app centric universe”. And that’s why I carry a Google phone instead of an iPhone——————–It seems to me that you favor a world where Google gets to maintain it’s UBER MAN IN THE MIDDLE strangle hold on the relationship between the content producers/content consumers and the advertisers who help pay for content creation and distribution. The “proprietary app centric universe” of which Apple is the prime instance in the market place at this present moment can offer a key upside to the content producers/content consumer and advertisers who help pay for content creation and distribution. Apple or any other similar agency based gatekeepers do take a % fee for mediating this relationship but it is much more open in allowing the content producers, content consumers and advertisers to establish their roles in their own relationship. It can also ensure that content producers get paid.Both models have their services and disservices to the various stakeholders. It is not a simple black & white choice.Google may be more open regarding the old commoditized profit substrate of networked database massage by supporting open protocols. But Google is very closed regarding the new emerging profit substrate. A substrate where controlling massive numbers of captive eyeballs for resale to the highest commercial bider is the NEW CLOSED SYSTEM that really counts on the ground.The key elements required to assemble wealth and power on this new corporate profit playing field are not the orchestration of complex computational dynamics, which have been simply reduced at this point to a commoditized substrate, but rather the orchestration of complex new social network dynamics, endlessly synthesized atop the old commoditized network database massage in order to create new profitable social control geometries.This is neither good nor bad in and of itself. It is simply the endless regress of evolutionary layers that nature seems to use to build new possible realities atop the substrate of previously stabilized layers of reality.When you take time out of the formula, it is of course inevitable that we will manufacture powerful new organically-dynamic social geometries, an emergent noosphere, atop the previously commoditized networked database infrastructure that is the internet we all take for granted today.The real question is!Who will control the manufacturing of this new noosphere? The government apparatchiks, the profit seeking corporations or commercial-free citizen groups. As government apparatchiks and the profit seeking corporate institutions are arguably necessary evils for the obvious reason that self interest has been evolutionarily built into the wetware. It is our, the commercial-free citizens, challenge as the monkey in the middle to play these two major power brokers off against each other in order to keep either from dominating the democratic interests of the citizens. In a democracy the citizens must take responsibility for controlling the institutions they have created to ultimately serve their collective democratic needs.Google is just another, all be it new-age, corporate profit seeking institutional entity. They are very clever and as the first movers at orchestrating complex new social network dynamics atop a commoditized internet, they will seek to build profitable social control geometries for their share holders. They are very right to warn of all the control vultures larking around trying to extend their old world profit lockdown control business models. The non commercial citizen’s interests are best served by playing the old boys business model, profits via corporate lockdown structures, against the new boys business mode, profit via subtle control over the manufacture of all new social exchange geometries.Google is both a short term hero helping liberate us from the clutches of the old lockdown corporate profit control crowd and at the same time our new long term villain setting itself up at the master control panel at MATRIX CENTRAL to orchestrate a social control fabric over which we will may have little input or control if we are not sufficiently suspicious of our new best frenemy Google. In the long run, free, maybe to high a price to pay.

      1. kidmercury

        damn raycote. you just dropped some serious knowledge. i agree, although i think there is an immense opportunity, probably for startups, that is currently brewing — the opportunity to serve as the liberator from google. IMHO it will require a different corporate structure, something more akin to a government than a corporation.

        1. fredwilson

          i agree with kid. you did drop some serious insight. and i agree with kid that google will get disrupted by someone else in time.

      2. TMC2K

        Insanely insightful comment. I nominate for post/comment of the decade. Possibly one of the greatest/worst things about this country is how we segment into two (left vs right / command vs profit) and the great middle has to swarm to either side to keep the direction corrected. Just glad we are not on ship, we’d have capsized by now.

    3. Olternaut

      I believe the market pushed Apple to go with native apps because web based applications were still too primitive. Now with the next gen web apps having abilities similar to native apps it is a different story.

      1. paulith

        I’m just not sure it’s going to be either a web-centric world OR a app-centric world. It is possible for a hybrid world.

  14. vruz

    something I wrote yesterday pondering on flash vs. HTML5, in reply to:http://www.stevenwei.com/20…vruz: agreed [that html5 is not about the death of flash] although we may start seeing flash being replaced in certain places, those are the places flash should have never been to. think corporate website menus and very simple online games.(coincidence: java applets were there first) flash will move up the visual complexity foodchain, will allow for languages other than AS3/Ecmascript to be used (see Quake C++ port) and incorporate state of the art 3D graphics (a la Unity3d). support for signal processing and external controllers would complete the interactive media orientation that HTML5 is not designed for. it would be nice to see the flashplayer go open source for most of its components too. unfortunately it’s a very badly understood technology by users and open source geeks alike.then @rafer replied via Disqus:What you’re describing is a classic Innovator’s Dilemma squeeze where Flash keeps focusing all the coolest, most complex bits right up until it enters product heaven.and I added:some products, if wisely managed, live a healthy afterlife in open source repos.innovator’s dilemma solution is always to cannibalise yourself.flashplayer is a loss leader for adobe anyway, and it has repaid itself zillions of times over already.the only bit they don’t want to lose their tight grip on is on innovative video technology, the rest is more of a burden than anything else.by the way, regarding loss leader and open source self-cannibalisation… that’s precisely what Sun did with Java after all. the path to flash’s death may end up being different if Adobe refuse to follow the way of open source like Sun did.

  15. Triplefox

    I wrote up a summary of technical differences between HTML5 spec and Flash – trying to spread it around to give people an idea of exactly what features are on the table at the moment: http://www.ludamix.com/arch

  16. Ellie Kophter

    Dude!, It’s just too bad we can’t just like tweak the bit torrent engine to stream the video part we want to watch or stuff.

  17. vruz

    there’s people working on the transition…this is a flash bytecode interpreter/translator that generates SVG codehttp://paulirish.com/work/g…however this is only experimental, covers 1/1.000.000 of what the Flash VM (AVM2) is capable of doing and it’s only relatively usable in Google Chrome. not big on interactivity or open availability really.I highly doubt javascript will ever replace a full blown, highly optimised virtual machine like Hotspot or native code. It’s entirely possible that computer science is unable to produce the ideal javascript-based virtual machine that can do performant interactive media.We don’t really know. People ‘wish’ and ‘believe’, but they really know shit.More to the point, Google are doubtful too this can be done the HTML/javascript wayhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wik…Advocates of the theoretical purity of HTML will smash themselves against a Google binary wall.Basically… ActiveX done right, by Google, for Intel machines.And that will be very useful for Chrome, which Mozilla will probably try to stay away from on philosophical grounds.Another little explored route I haven’t heard anyone mentioning, but makes total sense to me: Flash could go CGhttp://developer.nvidia.com…If javascript-based interactive media takes hold, it won’t be because it’s better, or better on philosophical grounds, or intrinsically more performant.It will be merely because of political factors, and Moore’s Law alone.

  18. xackr

    It really doesn’t matter how much the market fragments. The smallest fragments are SO large there will be tons of user generated content in many, many forms. If anything I think the market should be less obsessed with “who will win” as it should be in generating new and novel competition to the megatechs. When you get down to it, if you had to start today from scratch – how hard would it be to develop in 2 years an alternative to both Flash and h.264? Probably not very. Even a patchy scratchy one would be enough to keep the prize a little further on the horizon. We get so focused on whats on the menu we forget we can always go back or make a new menu altogether.

    1. fredwilson

      right. that was jeremy’s big point which struck me enough to blog about this issue

    2. ShanaC

      While that’s true- will people come to eat at the restaurant?especially at the higher ends, people will want full support for what is made. Right now I can definitely say that h.264 supports interlacing. By default, so does Flash. Ogg doesn’t. And that is a basic video treatment. I’d be scared for more complex treatments that need to be supported, especially considering that most of these treatments are applied pre-rending.I’d be more curious about how well sampling is done before switching. If the format chosen doesn’t support how people make movies, what is the point?

      1. xackr

        Shana, they won’t come to the restaurant because it’s the best food in town. They’ll come because either:a) it’s all they can affordb) they hate all the other restaurants in town orc) that cute monkey and kitten fighting over a pumpkin video that just went viral is only on that restaurant’s big screenBut just like a real life restaurant, there will be a new one and it will keep the olds on their toes.

        1. ShanaC

          Of course, it just better support interlacing. That’s just standard now…

  19. Chris

    I thought that HTML 5 supports that free Ogg codec as well as H.264

  20. jmc

    Hey, what about MS’s Silverlight. Surely that is the future?

    1. Mark Essel

      Ha πŸ˜‰

  21. Aviah Laor

    Closed garden strategy does provide a competitive advantage for the short term, and Apple succeeded to take advantage of it for years. Maybe they will return to Mac OS. Flash will stay. It’s like Java (Windows 7 still includes VB6 runtime). Maybe Adobe will return to be a designers oriented company.Nobody mentions Microsoft anymore. Google is everywhere.

    1. fredwilson

      Google is indeed everywhere. It is the most important tech company right now

      1. Mark Essel

        It’s still a magnet for super smart motivated people. That means it’s going to be important for a while to come. When reading about their internal corporate culture I try to pick up ideas.

    2. ShanaC

      doubt it- what about the omniture purchase?

      1. Aviah Laor

        They are a great company, with impressive contribution to the creative web as we know it. Nothing to bash about, really. But they always were the “also runs” for real development. Typical development is a choice between .Net,or Java or the Php/Python/Ruby stacks; they never quiet made it to be a real alternative. But it’s a focus issue. As someone comment here they have great tool for designers who want to write some code (but not for developers who want to do some design). So for a typical casual game, where design is, say, 80% (not sure, not my expertise) they offer a compelling solution and large enough user base, and maybe they should re-focus on this large-enough niche of the development pie. They will have to struggle with the always improving open-source competition to their creative suit as well, but they still have a huge edge here.

        1. ShanaC

          Game design is not my expertise either- though there is a whole blog called Casual Game design devoted to it.I really do think that there needs to be a stronger bridgepoint to designers in codeland (but that is a personal thought/beef)I still think that if Flash can make it onto phones, Omniture will help them. Who doesn’t want to easily put analytics automatically into a game or some other flash thing?

  22. scottythebody

    Wait. I think I’m missing something basic here. How is it Google vs. Apple in the HTML5 vs Flash battle? Both come down heavily on the side of HTML5 and no Flash. Apple has done more for open web HTML5 stuff than anybody else with their webkit work.

    1. scottythebody

      errrr… with the exception of Mozilla/Firefox, of course πŸ˜‰

    2. fredwilson

      Yes. But I’ll be watching videos on a flash player or listening to streaming audio in a flash player on my android phone soon

      1. Andre

        i am doing just that now on my Nokia N900. only slightly annoying thing is the: “click to launch FredWilson.FM music player” bar following me ,)

        1. fredwilson

          sounds like something we should address with our mobile browser rendering work on this blog. getting this blog to work well on mobile browsers is important to me

      2. rick gregory

        How is Flash more open? It’s controlled by one company and it’s closed source. A very practical result of that is that the community can’t do anything about the crappy Flash player on the Mac because of this.If you’re making the argument to use Flash vs HTML Video on openness grounds, Flash doesn’t actually win and I don’t see how we’re better off having video and rich authoring dependent on one company. Wouldn’t we be better off if everything we use Flash for was supported by open alternatives and Adobe focused on making kickass authoring tools vs trying to control the consumption side? If you’re going to argue for openness it’s HTML5 that you want to win, not Flash.By the way, HTML5 Video isn’t required to use H.264… Ogg Theora is an alternative (see this TC article for a decent quick summary and some good links – http://www.techcrunch.com/2… and see Asa Dotzler’s post here – http://weblogs.mozillazine…. – for some thoughts and links to videos encoded each way). Yes, I know, there are some technical issues and certainly political ones. Meanwhile, if you want to watch video without Flash on either Youtube or Vimeo you can in Chrome or Safari – both have H.264 HTML5 players right now. As for audio – why should anyone need Flash to listen to audio?Finally, quoting Jeremy Allaire on t he future of Flash isn’t exactly going for an unbiased opinion… Instead of worrying about what

        1. fredwilson

          as i said, this is the third rail of tech. people get very hot and bothered about this.i did not say anywhere in this post that flash is open. it’s a proprietary technology controlled by adobe.what i said was that google’s decision to support it in android is more open that apple’s decision not to

          1. rick gregory

            Ah, sorry for the misinterpretation.Some good thoughts from Gruber on Apple’s possible motivations for that here : http://daringfireball.net/2… with the main point being that Flash is both widely used and seemingly not that stable on OS X AND that Apple can’t do anything about it since it’s not a component they control.

          2. Mark Collier

            Motives aside, apples move does benefit the open web immensely, as any new site will think twice before using flash. By removing end user choice they actually force publishers to make a choice, something many clearly never considered before. That’s a nice result IMHO.

          3. PC

            I find the argument to be a bit ironic. Comparing one company that’s chosen to support a closed standard (Google/Flash) versus another company that’s chosen not to support a closed standard (Apple/Flash). Ironically, it may be Apple’s lack of support of flash on mobile that really pushes HTML5 which would be better for everyone (Google, Apple, users).Flash (players) has long had issues and these issues persist because it’s a closed standard. To this day, Flash on mac has issues and how long has it been around?As others have stated, Apple initially pushed for a web-centric application model and only opened the app store because of user demand (ie. users kept jail-breaking the device to get higher quality experiences). The mobile world will likely move to a more web-centric (instead of app-centric) model over time as bandwidth permits and I hope I see HTML5 and not flash as the dominant technology when that time comes. The only other requirement regarding an open/closed system is that Apple allow other browsers to run on the iPhone.

      3. scottythebody

        Sure, but better would be if those sites delivering the content would use web instead of Flash. iPhone App is the same as Flash to me. Lots big sites are already switching iPhones to non-Flash sites that deliver H.264 movies. That’s the real “open” win there.I totally see your point, but I, for one, am glad that somebody is forcing web developers’ hands on this. It’s going to be good for the web.I’m a bit prejudiced. I have always disliked Flash — mainly because of its abuse in its early days. Remember all the damned splash screens?

  23. wilhelmreuch

    I think the difficulty in offering an alternative video-player on a site seems extremely over-stated. Flash supports H.264 (which is much more “open” (but not fully open – there are patents) than the extremely proprietary On2 they normally use). So the video can be encoded the same for both.So it is a simple matter of embedding Flash-player if the Adobe proprietary runtime is supported or HTML5 if a standards-supprting browser is running. Or else at least a JPEG (to avoid that boring blue icon).I am running Safari with the ClickToFlash plugin and I dont really miss Flash that much – only the odd video and here I can take the option of just click-to-flash. And both Vimeo and Youtube already support HTML5 (which I have enabled).

  24. falicon

    It’s actually pretty simple to determine who wins…which is the easiest, cheapest, and most capable for solving a particular developers problem? The end users don’t care (or probably even know these sorts of things exist or effect what sorts of things are possible on their various devices)…it’s really just a developer mind-share battle, and that comes down to what makes our lives easier, gives us the most ability to do what we want, and get out in front of the users we are looking for…It doesn’t matter if it’s HTML5, Flash, or COBOL…if it helps a developer solve a problem, it will get used…if it helps them do it cheaply and easily, it will get used A LOT. πŸ™‚

    1. Mark Essel

      Great point Kevin. Give me a magical set of tools that converts my ideas into software rapidly without pain and I’ll dance around creating service after service like an endless machine. Maybe one of those services will catch on and I can get to the development I’m really after, business development πŸ˜‰

  25. Ian Sefferman

    I think the mobile HTML5 app vs native app fight will play out much like the desktop fight of Flash vs HTML5: this is not a winner-take-all fight, and each has its merits.That said, we at AppStoreHQ (http://www.appstorehq.com) believe that both types of apps will be important, so we’re all for supporting both (we’re currently adding mobile HTML5 apps as we speak). It’s also why I launched a tumblog to follow the debate, the progress, and provide help to folks wanting to develop mobile HTML5 apps: http://www.mobilehtml5.com

    1. fredwilson

      Ooh. Nice. I’ll follow it

  26. Peter Cranstone

    Fred,I have to smile when I see these comments. There is one web, multiple devices connect to it and transmit data. Segmenting it into multiple web will fail as it will confuse the customer. Secondly none of these technologies address the underlying problem – the web server still cannot easily detect the capabilities of the device that is connecting to the service. Why not? Because HTML and or JavaScript is limited in what it is allowed to access outside the browser. (this problem has been solved – refer to the documents I sent you)But what if…. for a moment the web server knew in real time exactly Who, What and Where the device was that was connecting. You could now Personalize, Mobile and Localize the response. Sure Google and Apple will try and corner the market – but in doing so they miss the larger opportunity. There are 206 million web servers out there – What if… everyone supported the capability to detect real time device capabilities – and I’m not just talking about a few device side API’s, I’m talking about all of them. And could do so without compromising Security or Customer Privacy.Which leads me to my final point. No one is even talking about Privacy – how is HTML5 going to support the customers privacy? Where’s the security features that encrypt this sensitive device side data in real time?It’s all missing.

    1. fredwilson

      Missing until your platform hits the market πŸ˜‰

      1. Peter Cranstone

        It’s shipping.Let’s switch gears for a moment back to the “problem”. Customers buy solutions to their problems. They don’t buy technology. So what problem does HTML5 solve and for whom?First of all it’s not even finished (due date is 2012), Secondly it requires very specific browser capabilities (which means everything has to be upgraded) and thirdly it requires that the web server really know what the device is capable of at the other end. The CTO of Adobe who talked about it is spot on.When we talked to customers very early on it was very telling… the consumer wanted three things: 1) Convenience 2) Privacy 3) Control – the enterprise wanted two things 1) To Make Money 2) Simple integration without the need to learn anything new. (think risk mitigation)HTML5 has got some work to do to achieve these desires.

        1. Mark Essel

          The user/business pattern mashup, nicely done.

          1. Peter Cranstone

            Thank you. It’s all about the meta data – once you have it and the consumers permission it enables a lot of net new revenue opportunities.

        2. David Semeria

          Hi Peter, yes privacy is a big issue – both for HTML5 and Flash (the source, owing to its native access, of not a few security exploits…)But you have to look at the bigger picture…I was taken aback by the number of people who said they would drop the iPhone and switch to the Nexus, if only they hadn’t bought a bag full of iPhone specific apps.We call the lock-in, down my way.

          1. Peter Cranstone

            We did look at the bigger picture.We added a set of Open API’s… you can now link any iPhone app to our solution with a few lines of code. You then get all the meta data, privacy and security capabilities and the ability to use it in a cross platform environment.We call that unlock, down my way.

  27. Jason

    if it’s really true that many companies wait for Apple’s “next big thing” before they go head in build hardware of their own, their political strength as well as the traction of their proprietary product will continue to outpace others, and in light of this discussion, is well, a little annoying. meanwhile, another elephant releases a proprietary product for books, and just recently a development kit for it. we won’t stop reading or watching…

  28. David Geller

    Apple is doing a terrible disservice to its users (I’m an enthusiastic Apple user) by rejecting Flash. Sure, there’s lots of crap out there – but many sites rely upon Flash for a whole host of things that, today, are difficult to script with any other tool/platform. The argument that Apple might be doing this to protect their walled garden, if true, is foolish on Apple’s part and short-sighted. As soon as development tools like Adobe Flex (and others) begin natively supporting HTML5 then the same thing Apple tried to avoid by rejecting Flash will be in front of them inside their own browsers.What people fail to recognize about Flash is that it’s way more than just a means to display video. It has direct ties to hardware (like a video and audio source) that HTML5, today, doesn’t have. It truly delivers a cross-browser and cross-platform content delivery vehicle like no other. Of course Apple doesn’t care about this – but their large publishing customers and partners do. I’m saddened by the fact that all the amazing Flash-based educational content that my 7 year old daughter enjoys on the family iMac won’t be available to her on the ideal personal learning device – the iPad!Adobe clearly can produce a version of Flash that’s fast, battery efficient and delivers results and a solution that silences critics. They’ll be doing it soon for multiple mobile platforms and I continue to believe that they did it two years ago on the iPhone in a deal that almost made it to the public. Apple needs to bury the hatchet and let them have that chance. Two things will happen if they do: one – consumers will reject and ignore web sites that abuse their time and operate (with Flash) poorly (as they do today) and two – Apple will sell a boat-load more product.

  29. Mark Essel

    I share your sentiment for a “web-centric handheld world” vs an “app centric” one. Just this morning I wrote that Choice is Beauty and it was like hotcakes on Hacker News. I’m learning a lot from the varied feedback there.By the way Fred and other Fredlanders, in case you missed this video (thanks to David Semeria), you should take this opportunity to watch Twitter Code Swarm. It’s quite enjoyable and I picked up the music album by Jami Sieber.

    1. fredwilson

      i watched it yesterdayit brought back some memories (both good and bad)

    2. perpetuity

      Just watched it on my non-flash iPhone… that’s great.

  30. rafer

    To analyze this robustly, we need to decompose the advocacy groups in the HTML5 vs Flash debate. There are five, only three of which have been called out here. The three called out here are the three that Jeremy and Brightcove serve — professional copyright owners, professional ad/mktg vendors, and regular humans when we are consuming the information published by those first two groups. Those three will hold on to Flash as long as it’s where the money and convenience is. If they were the only three groups, the technology wouldn’t change.The fourth is implicitly the dominant category on this post — bloggers (whether oldskool, micro-, tumbl- or …). HTML5’s flexibility will open up a number of new video socialization models that YouTube, et al, can’t follow without risking their current audiences. Qik and 12secs are halfway there, but there’s more to come. The origination of new, heavily socialized video that’s only available in HTML5 will be very sexy this year and start to have a material impact next year.The fifth category are pirates, especially the non-malicious teenage sort. They have a lot of overlap with the bloggers, of course. They will make HTML5 video the way they made MP3.

    1. raycote

      Clear speaking comes out of clear thinking.Thank you for the great framing job!!

    2. fredwilson

      ah, the pirates. that explains a lot.

  31. gyardley

    The amount of people that don’t have Flash installed on our (admittedly quite iPhone- and Mac-centric and developer-focused) domain is already well over 25%. Using Flash would be idiocy.

    1. fredwilson

      sadly they cannot listen to fredwilson.fm.

  32. Dani Farago

    I do not think this is a real issue. Both google and apple are doing everything they can, to grow big enough to swallow the whole publishing industry music, film/video, news/magazines/books inclusive. Sorry not the industry but the profits. And they are very good at it. With different approaches. But for me, the enduser it’s absolutely irrelevant for whom I make the profit. Media should be paying more attention or they will shrink to the size of peanuts.

  33. kosso

    I have Flash on my Orange (UK) HTC Hero. (“HTC Flash Player”) It works fine for most (older, pre-version 10) Flash video players on it.Why don’t they sell that to other Android phone owners? We used to have to buy Flash Lite.

  34. Eric Leebow

    In conversation yesterday, I had a little debate about this. There was a very profound observation, and this is not just with Flash. There are others, whether it may be Silverlight, JavaFX, or Google’s 03D API. After attending the RIA Conference in New York City last year, the speakers of JavaFX were enthusiastic about this technology, and choosing the technology is just the tip of the iceberg. There will always be evangelists of any sort of technology, and people will acquiesce to whatever the developers provide, yet this will segment the market of users of applications, if their particular device does not support this. Adobe knows this, and they will likely figure its way around any sort of incompatibility issues, as it’s a business that depends on this. If Flash cannot make it on the iPhone or iPad, it’s likely that Adobe will be promoting whatever device supports it. It’s inevitably there may have to be both an HTML5 version and a Flex or Flash version for some devices. Likewise, history repeats itself, and users want choice, just as developers have their choice. You’ll visit a website and it would allow the user to select HTML or Flash or flash version, and we might see more of that coming back. It’s the same thing, HTML5 is not quite there yet on a browser compatibility level, and Flash will never be perfect, yet it’s something we have to live with, since Adobe is driven as a corporation. Being that Adobe is a public company, its shareholders will be advocates, and there will be developers for Flex or Flash, who are likewise evangelists. Think of it like the hybrid or electric car, the debate is tantamount to this. For a hundred years, engineers have been building cars that run on gasoline, and they thought this methodology was right, yet it wasn’t perfect, and they find out years later that for many years the automobile industry is challenging the air we breathe, and we’ve got to do something. The oil companies are driven by creating shareholder value, and there will be people who stand on that end of the fence, and the startup electric car manufacturers such as Tesla will always stand on another side of the fence. It boils down, it’s about choice, and developers have to make a choice, just like car manufactures have to make a choice. Do we build or develop Hybrid or electric vehicles, or do we continue with gasoline powered vehicles. Anything that requires a download, that needs support from your browser is similar to the gasoline vehicle. It’s our history, it’s been here for us for years. There will be those who support it, and there will be leader evangelists who believe in the way we’ve been doing things for years, and these people may not change, or be open to change. It’s certainly political, and people will always have to make a compromise on technology, and what they can use. My thought is that, it’s very similar to the automotive industry, and the correlation of applications built on a hybrid model, will necessitate the continued growth of Web and development. For all those concerned, or worried that Flash will go away, you should not worry. There are things that HTML5 is better for, yet others where Flash should be used for rapid prototyping, and the same exact effect cannot be done exactly with HTML5. HTML5 is very much so in its early days, and cannot or will not just go away. It’s all about coming up with a gameplan for your application, making sure it works as expected, so that the user can enjoy it, and using the technology that makes sense that will reach the masses.

  35. zato

    This battle is nothing more than the same tech battle that goes on 24/7 in the TECH press. Pru Microsoft Apple haters, like FRED, vs APPLE. They will side with SATAN, if he opposes Apple. Anything but Apple is their motto, Flash is pro developer tools for pros like Allaire to control video on the web. H264 is for EVERYBODY.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t just hate apple. i love them too. it is a true love haterelationship

  36. Sebastian Wain

    I really don’t like these rants… html5/javascript is not a really democratic decision at all since they follow the directions of part of the interested parties. For example: is javascript the [only] right language for the [client] web? I don’t think so (after decades of computer science evolution) and the vote of many people doesn’t count on it. So Flash vs HTML5 vs Silverlight vs FlashFX vs vs vs is not the right question,IMHO the right question is: Why I can’t run whatever software I like on my mobile phone! it’s a computer! if I want to run the Commodore 64 Basic there and “type” poke 53280,1 there that’s my problem. Yes, HTML5 must add some good stuff like webcam & 2d/3d accelerations with WebGL but as part of other alternatives. In the end surely good standards will win, but what’s more democratic? writing my client web side code in python/ruby/c#/etc (what silverlight/moonlight offers) or be forced to “think” javascript ? may be at the end they are equally democratic (<.<)

  37. Danny

    Motives aside, apples move does benefit the open web immensely, as any new site will think twice before using flash. By removing end user choice they actually force publishers to make a choice, something many clearly never considered before. That’s a nice result IMHO

  38. JZA

    Thats why we need to support open standards like OGG Theora instead of H264. OGG Theora is not encumbered by patents nor do they require a license to ship with your browser.Cross platform apps like Firefox would have no problem to run a Theora video, and if you dont think people adopt it. Then you probably are not in touch with reality since most users dont even think about formats but just if it plays or not.

  39. jacobian

    well you are right about why we should use google phone instead of iphone, iphone is just too restrictive with it’s draconian rule of app store

  40. Brian Magierski

    Seems to me the landscape is playing out as follows:- Apple has a huge lead in initiating the mobile platform and in cultivating a developer community (which is the holy grail of platform success) around its iPhone platform. In addition to this it is favorable to HTML5. It now has a strong hand in both camps – proprietary apps and open HTML5. The app model is fueled by content – apps and iTunes – which helps Apple to drive down the price of its hardware, which in turn drives the adoption of its platform and advances the growth of its developer community. In the short run it profits by the apps store model and in the long run is hedged by its embrace of HTML5.- Google/Android is behind in its developer community. Yet another development platform may not be attractive. Embracing HTML5 is obvious. Also embracing Flash will give it a leg up in getting rich media and gaming apps to run on its platform (since there is an embedded developer community here already). This will further the device propagation and Android’s place in the game. If Flash succeeds long-term that is OK, but if it falls to HTML5, that is OK too. It’s a better play than trying to build a developer community on a new App platform, and it plays into Google’s strengths as a web services company, not as a mobile apps and content distribution platform.

    1. fredwilson

      excellent analysis

      1. Brian Magierski

        Thanks Fred. I’m wondering if HTML5 is going to be the initial “killer app” for mobile (realizing of course that it is not an app). Given how long it takes for people to shift browsers on PCs, it seems the real uptake of HTML5 will be from mobile with PC lagging, and thus enabling the platform shift we’re witnessing from PC to Mobile to really take hold.

  41. Alan Warms

    Fred -Great great succinct post and summary. Your posts are great at being long enough to make the point but short enough to finish! I have been writing about the same topic here: http://www.appolicious.com/… and here: http://www.appolicious.com/…I think the other interesting point here, from a stock valuation perspective — is that if Apps win, that is yet another massive cash flow growth opp for $aapl and a HUGE threat to $goog ‘s franchise. But the converse is not true I would argue — the iphone, etc. will still be formidable either way. This is a fight I expect $goog to pour almost unlimited funds into.

    1. fredwilson


  42. Mobipolls

    HTML 5 and CSS 3 can make really decent webapp. Checkout Mobipolls, a platform to answer on line survey right from your IPhone or IPod touchhttp://www.mobipolls.com

  43. rdgb

    The people hyping HTML5 vs Flash are often idealists whose field of vision is limited by some particular set of blinkers: eg I’m a Mac user who hates the bugginess of Flash on Mac, so everyone should; or I’m a developer who hates the hassle and quirks of Flash, so everyone should.They don’t see the practicalities of the Web, where 90% of desktops run Windows, and the best browsing experience for those people is currently to use Flash.On balance, the customer experience for iPad users would probably be better with Flash than without it. If Jobs hadn’t created so much shareholder value, then withholding Flash on religious grounds (which dampens sales) would probably get him a bunch of class-action lawsuits.All that Steve Jobs’ anti-Flash assholiness is going to do is inconvenience users and developers by forcing 2+ parallel formats on the Web. Flash won’t die for years, but his customers will suffer. Jobs is like a car dealer who says “I’m going to sell you an awesome car for a really good price — BUT I’m deliberately going to scratch the side, because it’s still a good deal and you’ll buy it anyway.” If a car dealer did that, you’d think he was a jerk.

  44. mikemc

    ONE difference is that with HTML5 you don’t have ONE company controlling it as with Adobe’s Flash.When Flash v10.0 came out there were plenty of broken web pages that couldn’t show the flash file because they were reading it as Flash v1.0 — lots of finger pointing on http://www.mozillazine.org/ — it eventually got worked out but many couldn’t see Flash files for a week. That could cost advertisers plenty. You’d get an error message “You need a version of Flash later than 9.0.While HTML5 is a ways off I think Jobs/Apple is right to go that direction. They were right about dropping floppy disks and having USB only.

  45. Richard Jordan

    I am not sure that App-centric means that Apple becomes a gatekeeper, nor anyone else for that matter. I think more likely is that Apps become like channels and that media consumption moves back towards non-PC type devices – mobile, TV, etc. For those devices a nicely packaged app is a superior experience to a browsing experience, and that’s what regular non-tech-edge folks want. They want the content and they want the device. The intermediate technologies they don’t care about.In such a world if Apple becomes too much of a gate-keeper the market will find other routes to those apps. Whether they’re native or HTML5 is academic – but I think they’re not going to be browsed to from a generic browser.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s clearly where we are at now. but i’m not sure its going to be that way forever

  46. marvinavilez

    I don’t know of a single company that has really WON when it came to file formats….in the end technology will be born, live and die….and the cycle repeats. The two true technologies that have made the biggest impact (combustion engine & transistor) are not owned by any one corporation. Invention will lead the way and the cycles will repeat….the cycles will get shorter (I think) due to the “network” effect that the internet has given us….so I think we should just be happy with any format and focus on the use of the content for the greater good!

  47. Anthony Ortenzi

    I think that one thing that you mentioned has been vastly underemphasized here.The On2 VP6 codec is what, until the advent of h.264, everyone used with Flash. It’s the On2 VP6 codec which made Youtube possible in the way that it was.And I hadn’t considered the MPEG-LA’s licensing intents when I heard about that purchase, but in retrospect, it’s a very Google way to deal with it. Once they own VP6, they have the opportunity to push MPEG-LA into an open model — since they have a viable competitor that they even could have the option of open-sourcing / freely licensing. Buying On2 puts them in the catbird’s seat, since they have the option to leverage it as either an open or closed alternative, whereas everyone else is betting the farm.Could you imagine the licensing jam MPEG-LA might have the legal right to put the owner of Youtube into otherwise?

  48. fredwilson

    i think Jeremy is a very smart guy and i don’t feel the least bit concerned about suggesting engineers read him, regardless of where the post runs. i’ve said some negative things about techcrunch recently but i really do think its a well done tech blog, its up there with the best of them.

  49. Mark Essel

    Nice app.

  50. fredwilson

    great comment, experience from the trenches. love it.

  51. Brian Magierski

    I’ve built a web game app on Flash in the past and agree with this assessment. No doubt that developer recruitment and adoption is key, and Adobe does not excel here anywhere close to how Microsoft has in the past. Apple seems to have a love/hate with iPhone developers – love the tools and marketplace / hate the restrictions and control. I wonder if Google will be the Microsoft of mobile in this way with the developer community.