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Adobe on "HTML5" (adobe.com)
37 points by radley on June 17, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments

"This whole "HTML5" campaign will likely benefit Flash, because few remain who oppose the idea that "experience matters"

Sadly for him, many people who back the idea that "experience matters" are also against Flash, in all its nasty, proprietary, CPU-killing ways.

It has taken a long time, but Adobe's chickens are finally coming home to roost. Profits are way down this year, because customers are ignoring CS4, and in a recent conference call they admitted they've had to begin hiring R&D staff again, which must really stick in the craw of the marketers who took over.

It's amazing how often people forget the old "be nice on the way up the ladder" maxim. But then you get to enjoy the schadenfreude of watching them come down.

That's some great spin there. The only good argument they have is that HTML5 will take a while. Compared to HTML5, Flash isn't so much better that it's worth sacrificing openness to use it. We'll have libraries that take care of the cross-browser differences. Sure, there will be problems along the way, but it'll be worth it to kill Flash.

"some great spin" is being put too mildly. Looks like they don't know what HTML5 is nor the state of its support in current browsers: pretty much all (but IE, of course) already have some support for it. Not sure how that makes minority of browsers, not to mention, that browsers on the new smartphones which are worth something are Webkit based—and that means support for HTML5. Apple specifically advertises HTML5 and CSS3 on its Safari webpage ( http://www.apple.com/safari/what-is.html ).

I completely fail to see how the release of iPhone "helped to radically increase the number of phones with Flash support". If it did help something this is to realize that we can do just fine without Flash.

So no, you don't need to wait ten years before HTML5 arrives, it is already on your doorstep (have you seen Google Wave?). There will be no wait, so "during that wait, Flash becomes more and more powerful" doesn't come to fruition. Adobe still cannot make Flash to run without hogging resources on anything but Windows, do they think I will buy this "more powerful" crap?

I don't think that HTML5 will kill Flash though, but if it forces Flash out of the places there it does not belong (full flash sites, flash navigation, etc.) Web will be a better place and I will be a lot happier.

Part of the anti-HTML5 crowd is more about simplicity and ease of tools. While you and I may understand HTML5 and it's underlying technologies (ECMA4, CSS3), it's confusing to developers who don't understand the reasoning behind certain features. Like the CSS vs. Tables argument, Flash seems easier to do glitzy effects, and have it supported by all browsers.

That said, I'm all for HTML5. Whenever YouTube officially supports the video tag, I'll me more than happy to uncheck that "Enable Plugins" on my browser preferences.

In case you haven't seen it, it looks like they're interested: http://www.youtube.com/html5

Important to remember that where Microsoft's strategy is to compete with flash via silverlight, Google's was just to build a new browser and create a better HTML by hiring all the people important in the process and throw its weight behind them.

So, yes, youtube is interested in HTML5 video, for the same reason google is interested in Chrome.

I think the fundamental problem here is that we, as true hackers, place too much emphases on the importance of openness. I'd argue that, for the average developer, strong design tools and the promise of cross-browser consistency is well worth sacrificing openness.

I see what you're saying, but I wasn't coming at it from a Stallmanesque openness-for-openness's-sake angle. Openness is also important as a guarantee, particularly in this case. For example, and this might sound like something RMS would say, we should be able to display Web content on some new device, without depending on Adobe to develop and maintain support for a version of Flash Player for that device.

Why should the "open web" depend on Adobe or any one company to do something you need?

I totally appreciate the value of "open", but pragmatically, it simply doesn't matter.

Every modern PC or Mac has Flash. Developers and, more importantly, "webmasters" (implying lack of technical skill) can rely on it being there.

OK, so the iPhone doesn't have Flash. How many web pages are broken really? Much fewer than you'd think. But even when broken pages affect the average user, they don't think "Damn you Adobe!" nor do they say "The people who run this site are stupid!" and they certainly don't blame Apple who makes this device they love so much. Believe it or not, the average user immediately assumes they personally did something wrong or are completely unsensitive to the problem. "Hmmm, I guess this page doesn't work on my phone... I'll show you later."

Openness solves engineering problems. Users don't understand engineering problems. More over, openness solves FUTURE engineering problems. Most people aren't sensitive to problems affecting them tomorrow, much less problems affecting the greater web community 5 years from now.

Wow. Apparently this comment was so bad that my other comment got down voted for it...

All I was trying to say that is that the average person is not sensitive to the same problems as "us". Flash isn't going to die because too many people just don't care about what we see as wrong with it.

On a side note: Personally, I'd rather see Flash go open than die. I value competition.

OK, but wouldn't it be better if the pages just worked for the user? That seems more important than being able to escape the blame. As you said, openness solves future engineering problems. I think that matters pragmatically.

It would be even better if when viewing a page that is only a flash object Safari on the iphone would have some sort of message saying that Flash is not supported on the iPhone. Of course that is advertising for flash...

> Every modern PC or Mac has Flash

Mine don't, and not through (my) choice. And neither do either of my phone handsets (Freerunner, HTC Dream). Flash is a pain in my arse.

I agree that it might be a while before the standard is final. And it will be even longer until all the non-HTML5 browsers are gone. But a decade? C'mon. All 5 major browsers should have a released browser with at least a few HTML 5 capabilities by the end of the year.

If your audience is targeted to newer browsers or if you're using a framework that can degrade gracefully, it shouldn't be long until you can start using this stuff on real sites. Some pretty popular sites (gmail) are already using this stuff.

It's interesting to see PR in action, especially as Proggit, HN, and several popular blogs have been sounding the HTML5-induced death knell for Flash in the last week or so. Translating the double-speak is actually good fun in this case. With all due respect to Jon Gruber, here is the PR-to-Human translation of this link:

The current WhatWG proposals called "HTML 5" have been stirring up a lot of polarizing speech lately

Positive attention to new technologies is only beneficial if Adobe has a clear monetization strategy for them. So we will introduce a controversy and try our best to make it "polarizing."

It's hard for Adobe to have an official opinion

But unofficially, Adobe will do everything possible to undermine the excitement over HTML5 and torpedo it at all cost.

whatever this consortium of minority browser vendors chooses to do

MINORITY. Get it? Unsupported! Unofficial! What happens if the minority goes away? Don't buy Tucker. Buy GM.

seeing what the final agreement turns out to be, and how it is eventually manifested in the world, both are prerequisites for practical tool-making

Given that we are a tool vendor, this is the only interesting part. And since we largely control the tool market for our tech, this is a major threat to us.

Still, I'm glad that an analyst asked a question about it at the quarterly financial call. Here's what Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen had to say

What a threatened tool vendor CEO has to say is what you should use to form your opinion about a technology and its future viability.

I think the challenge for HTLM 5 will continue to be how do you get a consistent display of HTML 5 across browsers

The biggest challenge for HTML5 will be the constant undermining from companies that see their current tool strategy and quasi-monopoly threatened, such as us.

And when you think about when the rollout plans that are currently being talked about, they feel like it might be a decade before HTML 5 sees standardization across the number of browsers that are going to be out there.

If we keep repeating the fear of how long it might take to implement again and again, it will take even longer. Your hesitation equals cold hard cash for us.

we still think that actually the fragmentation of browsers makes Flash even more important rather than less important

When asked about a potential competitor, I always mention how its rise will make our product more important. Because that's what the board pays me to do.

Adobe's about communicating your ideas -- publishing to various channels -- not just about Flash. Dreamweaver, ColdFusion and the imaging tools all benefit from an increase in HTML.

Hey guys, remember ColdFusion? ... Guys?

Adobe profits from easing communication in general

Positive communication about Adobe products. And sowing FUD about competitors. But since Slashdot posters ran the term 'FUD' into the ground ten years ago, you can't use it anymore without being derided. SCORE!

Flash is a strong bet for emerging platforms

I'm high as a kite.

I'm increasingly uncomfortable with calling the WhatWG proposals "HTML 5" though

Giving something that might become a standard the appearance of legitimacy is dangerous to our business model. Open standards are the enemy of our proprietary tools.

What counts is not a press release, but a realworld deliverable

What is not deliverable, for instance, is Flash on iPhone and possibly many other portable devices, which appear to be the biggest growth market/land rush of the next decade. Allowing an open competitor like HTML5 to dominate that market would be fatal for us.

Shantanu's last point in there really resonates with me

Please give me a raise.

this whole "HTML5" campaign will likely benefit Flash, because few remain who oppose the idea that "experience matters"

Our experience in making cold hard cash from selling Flash tools matters the most. Using "scare quotes" will help de-legitimize HTML5.

Things are quite a bit different than five years ago.

We now have a virtual monopoly on serving casual video on the web. We will fight anything that threatens us.

iPhone helped to radically increase the number of phones with Flash support

The new QuickTime X plays Flash videos natively. We might be screwed.

the "HTML5" publicity helps marginalize those few who still argue that images, animation, audio/video and rich interactivity have no place on the web

HTML5 uses open standards to play those file formats natively, which severely undercuts our tool/server profits.

Flash will be able to deliver on those heightened expectations, regardless of what each separate browser engine does.

Fuck you, WHATWG, Chrome, Mozilla, Safari.

Good stuff. I often wonder what it takes to be a PR bot. I think there are two ways of doing it:

1) The PR bot is actually a thinking human, and knows full well what he/she is doing. Just as ATB has done a PR-to-Human translation here, the PR bot does a Human-to-PR translation before posting.

2) The PR bot comes to sincerely believe the PR. This could be because he/she is just stupid, or because his/her salary depends on whatever is being pushed and this has subconsciously affected his/her brain.

It is both. #1 happens before the action, during research and development of tactical speech, and #2 happens during composing/talking -- your audience won't believe you if you don't believe it yourself, and it quickens your responses considerably just by being in the mind-set.

> But since Slashdot posters ran the term 'FUD' into the ground ten years ago, you can't use it anymore without being derided.

Quite important. These days 'FUD' tends to gets used more for 'anything which threatens to evict me from my self-imposed ignorance bubble'.

Yeah, a decade ago, one used FUD as a tool, sowing it in those who would listen, used by people who actually did that on purpose despite having knowledge or experience to the contrary. These days, FUD is increasingly less often something you spread, and rather it's something you have, something that keeps you from making good business decisions, it is a myopic view borne from an all-in vested self-interest; it is a response to being backed into a corner, not being able to see, or even conceive of, the next move that should be made, yet seeing the writing on the wall that you are becoming increasingly obsolete and the realization that the only way to remain relevant is to attack the unstoppable competition. FUD used to be used to keep people from trying your competitors; now FUD is used to stop people from using your competitors. FUD used to be telling lies to others; now FUD is telling lies to yourself.

The rhetoric is the same though.

Also, along with the scare quotes around HTML5, notice that he calls them "WhatWG proposals" in an effort to belittle them. The W3C is involved now, too. Sorry, Adobe.

Less "scare quotes", more recognition of the nominalization being used.

Much of the WhatWG evangelism tries to portray these proposals as a done deal, using phrases like "the HTML 5 standard". But none of us today know how that process will eventually turn out.

The browser vendors within the WhatWG have been trying to define a multimedia engine for years... phrase "HTML5" first got on my radar four years ago: http://weblogs.macromedia.com/jd/archives/2005/06/html5.html

The W3C has bought in to the WhatWG's work, but there's much ambivalence too, particularly as it attempts to rewrite existing Standards and Recommendations (URLs, accessibility), and how editorial control is so focused in so few hands. Hard to say at this point how it will all turn out. Bottom line, what we conveniently call "HTML5" here is not necessarily what a future "HTML 5.0 Recommendation" may be. (Or, more tersely, "don't jump the gun. ;-)

By the way, who are you? I remember researching the handle "johnnybgoode" a year or two ago, but this Hacker News account is recent. It's funny to see people arguing about how "open" they are when they keep their identities hidden... attaching your reputation to your opinions raises their value. You can hide if you wish, but why not open up...?

I wasn't using this handle anywhere at that time, so you're thinking of someone else. What does this have to do with Adobe working to oppose an open web?

You're trying to emphasize the uncertainties of HTML5; I get it. They'll be worked out. We already know the features that are coming. What then?

They miss a big point when talking about fragmentation: one thing what HTML5 is trying to achieve is to standardize the things which browsers _already_ do, i.e. to document current behavior where it is consistent and to make it as consistent as possible if it is not. It is the work largely based on how web and browsers work _now_, so the result will be quite an opposite to fragmentation.

You make it sound like they're interested in telling the truth!

> Hey guys, remember ColdFusion? ... Guys?


The new QuickTime X plays Flash videos natively. We might be screwed.

I'm pretty sure it doesn't, and that the guy who spread this as fact had Perian installed.

There's a slim possibility that Apple will pick up on the expectant salivating and actually add the feature (though they'd probably have to implement h263 first).

Flash uses Sorenson Video 3, which is derivative of h263. The irony is, that Apple used to exclusively license the SV3 codec for Quicktime (they used to deliver trailers in mov + sv3 + qdm2) and Adobe later licensed the same codec for Flash (later also On2 VP6 and H.264).

The point is, that Quicktime has supported the video (except VP6) and audio codecs used by Flash for ages, it just does not support the flv container. If you remultiplex any youtube video into mov container, any stock Quicktime installation will be able to play it.

Firstly, I respect the idea of cutting through PR speak. I hate it as much as you do. That said, there are some things in your comment I think you're way off on.

MINORITY. Get it? Unsupported! Unofficial! What happens if the minority goes away? Don't buy Tucker. Buy GM.

The vendors with minority market share are really putting their weight behind this spec, and adopting features as quickly as they can. The majority browser vendor, Microsoft, is not. They have a conflict of interest now that Silverlight is out. MS has displayed reticence in cannibalizing functionality from their other products in the past; IE is unlikely to subsume Canvas and Video features since its the domain of Silverlight ( for the time being ). We have been in this situation before - how many of us have banged our head against the desk for hours fixing a "bug" for IE6? Though many web devs are brave enough to only support current gen browsers, many of us do not have that luxury. I love HTML 5, but I can't imagine any of the features to be "killer" enough to make users switch to more modern browsers. That said, I'm not big on prognostication, and if it turns out I'm wrong, I'll be a happy man.

What a threatened tool vendor CEO has to say is what you should use to form your opinion about a technology and its future viability.

100% agreed. But I also wouldn't discount that opinion just because it comes from someone in a weakened position. Every one of us is a geek, and every one of us has been in a seemingly losing position when we actually know we're right. I'm with you, about not trusting the source, but not on the idea that it invalidates the position of that source.

The biggest challenge for HTML5 will be the constant undermining from companies that see their current tool strategy and quasi-monopoly threatened, such as us.

This I have the biggest problem with, and I'll project onto it some other sentiments I've seen from HN and Redditors, just to make it interesting :) I'll posit this: a monopoly, kept in check with free and open source alternatives, is healthy for our web ecosystem. I'll go further: we would not have AJAX if Microsoft didn't invent it. It's a hell of a good idea, but maybe not good enough, alone, to force users to switch browsers. Since MS invented it, and since it had the dominant browser ( a quasi-monopoly ), and since it was a great feature, other browsers could implement it. We all benefited. If it came from Mozilla, web devs would have been bending over backward to not totally ruin the experience of their AJAXified apps for IE users, and no one would have bothered to switch browsers. I know that I'm picking on subtext from your comment, and that's what I'm most disagreeing with, but I wanted to share that opinion.

If we keep repeating the fear of how long it might take to implement again and again, it will take even longer. Your hesitation equals cold hard cash for us.

Everyone knows that HTML 5 will be faithfully implemented in at least FF/Webkit/Opera before long. But, for right now, IE is still the lynch pin. Adoption of HTML 5 features will occur as rapidly as they're introduced into IE ( if history holds true - I pray for some really feisty and ballsy web devs, but I'm not holding my breath ). This, obviously, sucks, but for the time being, Adobe is right - if we're going to wait for IE, and if IE remains the dominant browser, we're going to be waiting a while.

Flash is a strong bet for emerging platforms - I'm high as a kite

How is this not accurate? I can reliably replicate any feature from HTML 5 in Flash today, and it'll work on any platform I want (* except all the platforms geeks get cranky about ;) ). Those features have been around for a while now. Flash's been a test bed for new ideas, and we all reap the benefits when it fails miserably ( intro movies = suck // never use a monolithic binary model for the web ) and when it succeeds spectacularly ( cross-platform, single-codec video player: <video>; audio player: <audio>; custom fonts; vector illustration <canvas>; animation [ more CSS3 ]; persistent local storage; etc ]).

_I'm increasingly uncomfortable with calling the WhatWG proposals "HTML 5" though_ I'm offput by this statement as well. I don't know why he's uncomfortable... It does seem like he's trivializing it.

Open standards are the enemy of our proprietary tools.

Again, I wouldn't count Adobe out on this one. The <video> tag isn't going to kill Adobe. Proprietary means Adobe can implement DRM. Yes. I know. WE ALL HATE THE FUCK OUT OF DRM. YouTube could thrive without DRM, but Hulu, for right now, could not. It is because Hulu offers protection on their videos ( Netflix, too ) that they're allowed to stream content to us. We could all "send a message" by torrenting those shows, cutting out Hulu/Netflix until they switch to <video> in lieu of Flash. But no one else will. Most people don't even understand what a plug-in is. They don't care that it has DRM attached. And frankly, me watching a few adverts so that the writers of The Office can buy a couple more ivory backscratchers is really not that bothersome for me. Again, Adobe implemented the first successful browser plug-in - they paved the way for <video> in the HTML 5 spec, so while we're chanting for its death, let's not forget that it's done some good.

Fuck you, WHATWG, Chrome, Mozilla, Safari.

Now you're just projecting ;)

> I love HTML 5, but I can't imagine any of the features to be "killer" enough to make users switch to more modern browsers.

Funny you should say that. Users don't really care about features. What they care about is being able to view the content.

Flash is so popular today only because of services like YouTube. It only takes a YouTube to make HTML 5 popular, and speaking of YouTube, guess who owns it ;)

> Adoption of HTML 5 features will occur as rapidly as they're introduced into IE

Complementary to the point above, Microsoft doesn't have any options but to implement it, otherwise they'll lose more market share.

Not to mention that plugins can be developed by third parties for IExplorer to add HTML 5 functionality. Google already started doing that with Gears.

Right on - they care about viewing the content. So if YouTube switched to <video>, over night, tons of users would switch browsers. Except that's never going to happen. My guess is that YouTube might serve up content using the <video> tag if the user isn't using a modern browser, and Flash content if they're using IE. I can't see them making such a reckless business move ( some users wouldn't/couldn't switch browsers, and there goes millions of paying customers ["paying" in that they view the ads]).

With companies like Google playing it conservative ( as all web devs do ), and adapting content to allow IE users to view it, there's not going to be an incentive for users to switch browsers.

Wow. I'm absolutely shocked by this rant and the support it got on Hacker News.

This is karma?

I rise to your troll bait. Bite my shiny metal ass. Flash rocks. HTML5 is for sissies.

Long live Jeff Goldblum.

His claim that it'll be 10 years until HTML5 works is absurd. Adobe makes some of the worst software in the software industry. Great marketers though.

After working with Flash Lite for way too long, I gotta agree.

I'm still convinced it's all about <video>. All this clamoring for Flash on iPhone, Flash on Android, Flash on GE Ovens etc is all about people getting their video (cough cough PORN) on their handsets.

Give them H.264 and a <video>-tag enabled browser, throw in a little JQuery for animating menus and eye candy, and we'll leave Flash in the dust for good.

Javascript is the new bytecode.

"HTML5" publicity helps marginalize those few who still argue that images, animation, audio/video and rich interactivity have no place on the web

I don't understand what he means by this. I'm assuming he isn't articulating his thoughts well. For as long as I remember there were images, cheesy animations and background music on pages around the web - long before flash and shockwave.

Does he mean that some people argue Flash is bad for the web because it's contents can't be indexed by search engines? Now that is a different story and a losing arguement since Adobe itself has admitted it's an issue.

No, he's using a common PR tactic. HTML5 has been getting some good press, and he's scared about it hurting Flash. So he's highlighting what HTML5 and Flash have in common by essentially inventing a fictional common enemy[1], and using that to say, "Hey, if you like HTML5, you'll love Flash!"

[1] I'm sure there are people who actually take the invented position, but it doesn't really matter here.

[ Original poster here ]

The stance that "images have no place on the Web" is the oldest of the lot, dating back to Netscape 2.0 days... it's hard to remember or even believe now, but people did rail against the IMG tag.

Back in the late 90s there was much argumentation that "things shouldn't move on webpages". This has died down as people have realized how motion can help clarify interfaces (iPhone's intertial drag helped lots), but we're still not at the point of universal acceptance that animation helps increase the total number of people who find the message accessible.

My point was that the arguments against richer interfaces have died down, as the browsers slowly advance to bring such abilities within reach. There will always be criticism of the leading edge, but Silverlight, iPhone, and "HTML5" have each helped convert camps away from the belief that only permissible medium is lengthy English text.

(SEO has had the gosh-darnedest amount of misinfo spread about... search engines have reached inside SWF for years and years, as the old Slashdot example query of "'contrary evidence' filetype:swf" showed. Start by visualizing the terms on which people will likely seek your services... research the competition you have for the first ten Google hits on the term... then optimize your pages for those terms in the usual way, as recommended by the search engines' guidelines. The "every little bit of dynamic text" fascination is starting to bite Ajax now too, so I have hope it will soon go away. ;-)


Well thanks for clearing that up. I appreciate both of the comments of feedback. You are right about the IMG tag. I'm not old enough to remember if there was actually a community with positions or if Netscape was single-handedly deciding how HTML should look like.

For me it's not even about how the content is displayed (which is Adobe's concern), it's the user interface.

HTML 5 could present everything in mostly the same way, but still be an improvement because the browser would be aware of it all.

Problems that I see only in Flash:

- Fixed-size text in a fixed-size box in the browser.

- Text that can't be selected/copied/pasted.

- Unnecessary customizations to video player interfaces.

- "Navigation" that is completely unable to interact with the rest of my browser, e.g. can't figure out what URLs things go to, or how to go back.

- Needing to go to Adobe's own web site to bring up Flash configuration panels to edit further redundancies like Flash's own cookie storage, etc.

Hoo, the comments thread on this is still good. It's OK for Flash to suck, because sometimes other apps suck as well. the Flash plugin on Windows is far more efficient and performs massively better than in the same page on Macintosh. [jd sez: I haven't tested that, but it's reasonable -- 3D and video tools are often claimed to work better on Windows too.] http://blogs.adobe.com/jd/2009/06/adobe_on_html5.html#commen...

holding my finger in the dyke is hard, let's go shopping!

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