Ill Advised CIO Magazine Article Asks: “Is it Time for the Web to Abandon Flash?”

Ill Advised CIO Magazine Article Asks: “Is it Time for the Web to Abandon Flash?”

Bad information can be annoying, but bad information in the hands of decision makers can be downright dangerous. An article that was posted today by CIO magazine is just such a thing. The article is entitled “Is it Time for the Web to Abandon Flash?”, and it gives current I.T. decision makers some very very bad advice about Flash and HTML 5.

The article starts out even-handed. There are quotes like this:

The advantage that HTML5 has over Flash, and other proprietary Web development platforms like Microsoft’s Silverlight, is that it is a protocol standard or at least it will be once it’s finalized, not a single-vendor solution.

OK, Fair, and this:

Abandoning Flash would require a Web redesign, which can be a formidable, frightening, and costly undertaking.

Very true. But then comes the final paragraph: :

Still, Flash is a single-vendor solution that requires users to install additional software in order to view it, and the battle with Apple illustrates why Flash may not be available for all platforms. Small and medium businesses should seriously look into migrating to HTML5 for future Web development projects to embrace the coming standard and stay ahead of the game.

Migrating to HTML for future web projects? How can that be. The time frame of “future” is not defined here. In fact, in the web world, the future was yesterday. HTML 5 may very well be the future*future*future, but as far as the current future, no way. Simply put, it’s not ready. We have been exploring it ourselves to see what it can do. It is a very interesting technology that shows promise, mostly with video capabilities that are currently fairly robust. However, the heart of HTML 5 that would replace the core functionality of Flash is *not* video. In fact, video is relatively easy to migrate from one platform to another compared to the interactive content (especially games) created with Flash. This is the the functionality that will take the the most time, and money to migrate from Flash to HTML 5 will rely on the HTML 5 Canvas object. .We have been boring you with information about it for a week, but now that CIO Magazine is telling current and prospective I.T. leadership that “Small and medium businesses should seriously look into migrating to HTML5 for future Web development projects to embrace the coming standard and stay ahead of the game.” we have to speak-up. In our view, this is a BAD idea. HTML 5 is not ready for prime-time in any way what-so-ever and CIO magazine is doing a disservice to I.T. departments by claiming otherwise.

However, please don’t take our word for it. CIOs love metrics. It’s unfortunate that the article from CIO magazine contains very little in the way of support for their advice. Here is support for ours:

This web site lists the current compatibility of HTML 5 with most modern browsers. Their conclusion: nearly every element of HTML 5 is NOT READY based on modern browser compatibility. The most compatible browser, at 87% is Google Chrome. The worst offender is Microsoft Internet Explorer which, even at version 8.0 is 28% compatible. Even version 9.0 is predicted to only be 32% compatible. This site takes an alternative look at the same thing. See all those RED boxes. That is not good news fort HTML 5 across browsers.

Now, let’s look at browser penetration statistics. This summary table (stolen, sorry) from Wikipedia is scary for HTML 5 compatibility:


Chrome, the browser with the best compatibility has an average of 5.36% reach across several reporting sources. I.E., the browser with the worst HTML 5 compatibility, has an average 58.59% reach across several reporting sources. Since this data alone is not very powerful, let’s make-up our “Metric”, a ratio of browser reach/compatibility of features. Then we will have a solid number to compare to Flash. We’ll call it the “Web 3.0 Percentage Chance Of Success ” . Sure, this metric is something I just made-up off the top of my head, but as long as we keep it consistent, we should get an idea how an application might fare when built with a certain web technology at this point in time:

For Chrome with HTML 5,

HTML 5 compatibility = 87% * Browser Reach = 6%

87% of 6% = .0522 or 5% Web 3.0 Percentage Chance Of Success

For I.E 8 with HTML 5

HTML 5 compatibility = 28% * Browser Reach = 59%

59% of 28% = .1652 or a 17% Web 3.0 Percentage Chance Of Success


Now, let’s look at the Flash player penetration numbers. Here’s a chart from Adobe that has some numbers


99% of all browsers support Flash. However, a 3rd party suggests 97% , so we will use that number instead. Now, sort of like HTML 5, not every Flash enabled browser can use all the features of Flash. Specifically, we want to know how many of the 97% are Flash 10 compatible.

Here is another Adobe’s chart:


The average Adobe number is 94.15% penetration for Flash 10.

So, using the same “metric” of “Web 3.0 Percentage Chance Of Success

For Flash Using Flash 10,

Flash 10 compatibility = 94.17 * Browser Reach = 97%

94.19% * 97% = .913 or a or a 91% Web 3.0 Percentage Chance Of Success


So using this my new metric of Web 3.0 Percentage Chance Of Success, a Flash 10 project has a 91% chance of being successful, while HTML 5 project has an somewhere between a 5% and 17% chance of success in the near term. So when CIO magazine says “Small and medium businesses should seriously look into migrating to HTML5 for future Web development projects” they are effectively telling people to take a huge risk on a still unproven and experimental technology that is clearly not compatible among browsers, or even has a small percentage of it’s promised features ready for prime-time.

Here is a an example of what CIO magazine is suggesting, put into another context. Let’s say the military wants to fight an armored ground war in some foreign desert. They know that if they fight with several armored divisions of M1A1 Abrams tanks, they will have a 91% chance of success. It’s proven technology. It works right now, and vast improvements to the M1A1 Abrams technology are just on the horizon. Furthermore, those improvements will work with their existing investment in M1A1 Abrams tanks. However, just before the army is going to make that decision, an independent military analyst bursts into the Pentagon and says this:

“Wait, is it time to abandon using tanks for military operations? The M1A1 Abrams tank is a single vendor solution. The entire defense industry has been working on a new experimental technology. It involves teams of wild coyotes trained to use their genetically altered ESP mind-power to destroy enemy armored vehicles from long distances. It has a 5%-17% chance of success right now. 10 years from now, these mind-killing coyotes might have a success rate of 91%, but no one is really sure because while all of the defense contractors working on the mind-killing coyote project are pretending to work together, they all really just want the others to go away and any one of them at any time could create some kind proprietary mind-killing coyote that would not work with the others. Still, I think we should forgo using M1A1 Abrams tanks for future operations, and deploy mind-killing coyotes.”

What do you think the military would do after the analyst is laughed out of the room/shot on the spot?

Yeah, CIOs can safely still use Flash today and tomorrow. When the “metrics” get better for HTML 5, they can check it out again. They should go ahead and do some experiments with HTML 5 (especially the Canvas which could prove worth while…if I.E. ever supports it). CIOs should take one of their best technical people (if they have not all been outsourced yet), and get them to do some R&D work with the HTML 5 tech. Get to know what it can and can’t do. However, don’t base any future projects on it. That’s just not sound advice right now.


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