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Adobe’s willingness to build the Edge platform was driven in no small part by clients wishing to make their sites compatible with the Flash-free iPad, says Fernandez. Early development of the Edge software began with a request from Disney to help it recode its site for the iPad.

Fernandez and Mark Anders, an Adobe fellow, say a complicated Flash navigation bar that runs across the top of Disney’s website proved particularly tricky to reproduce using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. Animations created using the HTML5 standards CSS and SVG did not work. HTML5’s new Canvas element, which provides a way to script graphics and interactive content, wasn’t up to the task, either. “The only technology we could use that would reliably work across these different challenges was JavaScript,” says Anders.

The results of these experiments became the backbone of Edge, which renders animations created using its timeline interface in JavaScript and CSS. The resulting code can then be added to a distinct part of a webpage. “One thing we were very careful about is not to screw up people’s HTML code,” says Anders. Edge also lets programmers edit the underlying HTML5 code for the animation.

Whether HTML5 can ever truly replace Flash for high-end applications like games is debatable, says Laarman. He says he’s not convinced that HTML5’s SVG standard, which is a more direct analog for Flash, “will ever truly catch on in all the browsers and perform just as well for animation as Flash does.”

But games aren’t all that’s at stake. Aside from streaming video, the bulk of what Flash is used for on the Internet is advertising. So Edge could hasten the arrival of animated ads that get around both Flash blockers and the absence of Flash on iOS devices. Fernandez says advertisements are “easily the first target for the tool, because those are fairly straightforward in terms of the workflow and the content we’d be working with.”

“People say Flash will die, so you won’t have advertising,” says Hilwa. “But do you really believe that? The fact is that most of the Web is monetized through advertising. Over time, advertising might shift to HTML5.”

Supporting HTML5 does present one key challenge for Adobe. It controls Flash, but it doesn’t control the HTML5 standard, which puts Edge on a level playing field with other HTML5 development tools, says Hilwa. This gives Adobe every incentive to make Edge the best platform there is, whatever the consequences for Flash.

“There’s an absolute need for more authoring tools for HTML5 and the like, so I’m excited to see [Edge],” says Chris Messina, a user experience expert at Google. “In general, I think this is a great development for the Web-as-platform.”

“There was a time when every animated menu was in Flash, and then people figured out how to do those in HTML,” says Anders, who also points out that before newer Web standards were developed, Flash was the original way to create the app-like experience we now take for granted. “So, in a way, Flash was a victim of its own success, in that it created great stuff, and people said, ‘Hey, we’d like to do that, too.’ “

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Credit: Adobe

Tagged: Computing

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