Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

HTML5 Triumphant: Silverlight, Flash Discontinuing

With browser plug-ins all but dead, the only thing standing between open standards and complete dominance are apps.

  • November 9, 2011

You could hardly ask for a more ringing endorsement of the future of HTML5 and a Web based on open, common standards than Adobe and Microsoft’s near-simultaneous leaks announcing the impending disconinuation of their respective rich media browser plug-ins, Flash and Silverlight.

As The Verge points out, Microsoft’s announcement was not unexpected—in the past, Redmond has called HTML5 “the future.Adobe’s announcement was much more unexpected. As recently as last summer, Adobe told me that Flash was here to stay and that their new development platform for HTML5, called Edge, was merely a supplement to their existing Flash toolchain.

But so much for all that. As IDC analyst Al Hilwa pointed out in a note he sent to reporters this morning:

Eating your own children is standard operating procedure for successful tech companies. HTML5 is coming on strong as a standard, accelerated by the speed of change of hardware devices. By 2013 we will reach a point where 90% of smartphones and tablets will sport HTML5 capable browsers.

Al Hilwa notes, however, that Flash for desktop PCs is going to stick around a while yet.

We don’t expect 90% of desktop browsers to be capable of HTML5 until 2015 so the differentiation that Flash provides in high-end graphics and video protection continues and Adobe will continue to invest in it.

So what’s next? How about web apps versus native apps. As lucrative as Apple’s app store has been—and as potentially lucrative as other app stores, like Amazon’s, may become—in this space there is already a fusion between native code and open standards, so-called hybrid apps. Whether fragmentation will push more developers to HTML5, where they can code once and, with little fanfare, see their work delivered to every one of an increasing panoply of devices, remains to be seen.

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