The “HTML5 vs. Flash War” in Regards to the Music Industry

HTML5 vs. Flash

In addition to music, I also like to read up on technology (the two have always been closely related), so I subscribe to several tech-related RSS feeds. I have been loosely following the feud between Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs and Adobe, the creator of the popular “Flash” web plug-in. Steve’s passionate hatred of Flash kind of intrigued me. Apparently, there is a new version of HTML (the main language used to code the Internet) that may rid Internet of those web plug-ins (like Flash) that you are annoyingly forced to download (and that public computers never seem to have) in order to view certain websites. There is currently a working subset of the code that is already in use, most notably by popular video sites YouTube and Vimeo. Should companies in the music industry that use Flash to create their websites and widgets be concerned?

People like to jibber jabber, and lots of bloggers were extremely quick to revere HTML5 as the replacement of Flash, and “the future.” Although dramatic, are they right? Well, effing DUH – HTML5 is only around in a limited, subset form right now. So it is probably safe to assume that yes, a full version will emerge eventually, and at a time that isn’t the past or present. Thanks for that, guys. As far as being a replacement for popular plug-ins like Flash and Java, however…this is still kind of unclear. The W3C and browser vendors (ehem, Internet Explorer) are extremely slow to change, and it’s been predicted that the W3C won’t even consider THINKING ABOUT revising HTML to its fifth version until 2012. So that makes me think that Flash will be safe, for now. I think.

However, HTML5 seems to pose some clear advantages over Flash and other web plug-ins, which I guess is why Steve Jobs got his panties all in a bunch about it. It seems to have a clear advantage in the realm of web productivity apps. For example, lots of Google Apps currently use a combination of HTML+Javascript(Ajax) to create really compelling and efficient experiences for their users (think Gmail). No Flash plug-in required, much speedier, and a productivity boost. Cool.

The second broad class of web applications, and the one that relates the most to the music industry, is Rich Media Apps. These apps include things like online music/radio/video, rich media advertising, and widgets. There are tons of music-related companies like Pandora,, Topspin, Reverbnation, and Fairtilizer, that utilize Flash to help enhance their websites, as well as their interactive and easily shareable widgets. Many music-related widgets that litter the Internet are so great because of the rich experience that the Flash platform can provide. In regards to widgets, Flash (which can be combined with HTML) seems to be the option that creates the best experience for the user. However, there are companies like Bandcamp who appear to be doing just fine using HTML+Javascript for their integrated music players (they use Flash for their embeddable widgets). It is still unclear whether HTML5 will be able to replicate the same experience, or do it better.

I am a huge fan of @officialfm’s Flash-based music player widgets. Their unique visualization is trendy as hell, and they’re ridiculously easy to use.

Should music industry people care? Should music fans care? Should companies in the music industry that create Flash-based widgets be worried, and consider the HTML5 route? Personally, I think that Flash still has at least another decade of shelf life, and that music radio giants like Pandora & shouldn’t be worried yet – just aware of what’s going on, and actively experimenting with the new technology.

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  • DJ Chima

    I guess if IE is that slow on the uptake (2012 html5 adoption) we can't really make any major steps in that direction for another year or two anyway. I don't know the breakdown but is IE almost half of all web users? If they can't view your hard work what's the point?

  • Chris B.

    I know that Firefox has around 50% of the market these days…here is a website I found that breaks it down nicely:

    People are starting to catch on and realize how terrible IE is….we just need to hope that this trend continues!

  • Manish955

    i think adobe will fight back with some more innovations,although html’s expanding horizon cannot be denied.