Comparison of HTML5 and Flash
HTML5 can be used as an alternative to some of the functionality of Adobe Flash. Both include features for playing audio and video within web pages. Flash is specifically built to integrate vector graphics and light games in a web page, features that HTML5 also supports.
With the announcement of Adobe ending support of Flash Player on December 31, 2020, many web browsers will no longer support Flash content.
The table below compares the features of the Flash platform, the HTML5 specification and the features implemented in modern web browsers.
|HTML5 standard||HTML web browser features||Adobe Flash/AIR features|
|Date started||Work began in 2003
Working Draft as of 2011
|N/A||Work began in 1996 |
Version 1 released in 1997
|Desktop operating systems||N/A||AmigaOS, MorphOS, Apple macOS, Linux, Microsoft Windows||Apple macOS, Linux, Microsoft Windows|
|Mobile operating systems||N/A|
|Video game consoles||N/A|
|Device support||N/A||Full, permission-based access to web camera, microphone, accelerometer and GPS|
|Market penetration||N/A||82.3% of websites (as of March 28, 2020)||4.5% of websites (as of April 19, 2018)|
|Browser support||N/A||97.5% of browser installations (as of February 2020)||29% of browser installations (as of July 2019)|
|Vector graphics formats||N/A||Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) supported on ~97% of browsers||SWF with embedded graphics and AS3SVGRenderer|
|Bitmap effects||Yes||90+% support of Filters in CSS3 (e.g. Glow, Blur, Drop Shadow, Sepia)||Yes, applied to text or graphics (e.g. Glow, Drop Shadow, Bevel)|
|Vector text display||Yes||Yes||Yes, with Saffron Type System|
|Font support||N/A||Installed fonts and custom fonts using CSS 3 web fonts||Installed fonts and embedded fonts|
|Text anti-aliasing||N/A||Yes, implemented in most browsers, for system and custom fonts||Yes, in most cases^2|
|Text tab stops||No||Only supported inside "pre" tags||Yes, with Text Layout Framework|
|Liquid text layout||Yes||Yes, via "div" tag and CSS styling||No, but text fields can be resized in ActionScript|
|Tabular data||Yes||Yes, via "table" tag||No, but text fields can be arranged into a grid|
|Linked text frames^1||As of 2016[update], two specifications compete: CSS Regions and CSS Overflow||With CSS Regions, supported by Safari, IE11 and Edge||Yes, with Text Layout Framework|
|Data formats||Depends||CSS 3, HTML, XML, JSON||JSON, XML, Subset of CSS 1|
|Data compression||No||GZIP compression for HTML, JS and CSS files||LZMA or DEFLATE for SWF files|
|Image formats||Depends||PNG, JPEG, SVG, Animated GIF[note 1]||PNG, JPEG, JPEG-XR, Single-frame GIF|
|Video formats||Depends||90+% support of H.264; varying support of WebM and Ogg Theora (see HTML5 video)||H.264, Sorenson Spark, and On2 VP6|
|Streaming video||Yes||Supported by IE, Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.||Flash Video, H.264 and partial support for MP4|
|Audio formats||Depends||~94% support of MP3, AAC and WAV PCM; varying support of Ogg Vorbis, and WebM Vorbis (see HTML5 audio)||MP3, WAV and AAC audio files or embedded sound|
|Fullscreen support||Yes||Supported on all major desktop browsers, with warning displayed. Not yet widely supported on mobile||Yes, with warning displayed|
|Encryption DRM||Depends||~65% support of audio/video files. All other files being plaintext, except for obfuscation||No, binary formatted files can be decompiled, which is obfuscation|
|File system access||Depends||Single file upload, and drag and drop of files onto browser||Support for single file upload and generation,|
AIR only: full create/read/write access to file system
|Bitmap manipulation||Depends||~95% support for canvas element||Yes, via BitmapData class|
|Large binary data||No||Via Web Sockets to stream binary or other data||Yes, embedded or streaming binary data|
|Offline storage||Depends||Yes, via Web storage, HTTP cookie, or Indexed DB to store binary, XML or JSON data||Yes, via Local Shared Objects to store AMF-formatted data|
|Metadata||Meta tags||Can be included in meta tags||Extensible Metadata Platform|
Originally, web browsers could not render Flash media themselves, and required the proprietary freeware plugin Adobe Flash Player. Until 2008, there was no official specification by which to create an alternative player. Alternative players have been developed before 2008, but they support Flash to a lesser degree than the official one. Flash support is built in to Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 (and later), and Microsoft Edge.
Earlier versions run on Android 2.2-4.0.x (Flash has been released for 4.0, but Adobe announced that they will discontinue support for Android 4.1 and higher.) (Flash 11.2), Linux (Flash 11.2, except for Pepper Flash which is maintained and distributed by Google, not Adobe), PlayStation 3 (Flash 9), PSP (Flash 6). Adobe Flash Lite runs on Wii, Symbian, Maemo Linux, Windows Mobile, and Chumby.
Apple never allowed Flash to run on iOS, the operating system which runs on iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Apple TV. Apple never had plans to do so, even after Adobe announced Flash Player's end-of-life in July 2017. Apple has officially dropped support for Adobe Flash from the macOS version of Safari 14 released on September 17 2020 for macOS 10.14 Mojave & macOS 10.15 Catalina.
In February 2012, Adobe announced it would discontinue development of Flash Player on Linux for all browsers, except Google Chrome, by dropping support for NPAPI and using only Chrome's PPAPI. In August 2016, Adobe announced that, beginning with version 24, it would resume offering of Flash Player for Linux for other browsers. Adobe will stop traditional support for the Flash platform in 2020, both Firefox and Google Chrome are phasing out support of Flash.
All web browsers support HTML and other Web standards to various degree. Adobe released a tool that converts Flash to HTML5, and in June 2011, Google released an experimental tool that does the same.
As of December 2013[update], versions of browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari implement HTML5 to a considerable degree. However, some portions of the HTML5 specification were still being implemented by browser makers.
Until 2008, the use of Flash was covered by restrictive licenses. The conditions prohibited use of the specification to develop any software (including players) which could render or read (and thus convert) SWF files, and required the output SWF files to be compatible with Adobe's players.
In 2008, restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications were dropped, and some specifications were released. However, the "SWF File Format Specification Version 10" allegedly did not contain all the needed information, did not contain much information that hasn't been previously known by the community, and itself could not be copied, printed out in more than one copy, distributed, resold or translated, without written approval of Adobe Systems Incorporated.
Flash is not an open standard. It is controlled by one firm, Adobe Systems. In contrast, HTML5 is controlled mostly by a committee, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).
Various people have praised Flash over the years for rendering consistently across platforms. Constructing sites in Flash is a way to prevent code forking, whereby different versions of a site are created for different browsers.
Speaking at 'Adobe Max' in 2011, Itai Asseo likewise said that, unlike HTML5, Flash offers a way to develop applications that work across platforms. HTML5, he said, is currently implemented differently (if at all) by different browsers. Although the Flash browser plugin is not supported on the Apple iPhone OS, Flash applications can be exported to Adobe AIR, which runs on that operating system as a native application. In the same talk, Mr. Asseo lamented the return to another browser war (as seen in the late 1990s). If Flash falls out of favor, he said, web developers will either have to develop many different versions of their web sites and native applications to take into account different HTML5 implementations, deny access to browsers that do not support their version of HTML, or dramatically reduce the functionality of their sites in order to deliver content to the least-advanced browser.
In 2011 Adobe released a Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tool for existing content
Flash has a better performance than HTML, as a comparison of Flash with HTML in 2010 listed Flash as being faster than the other technologies, when used for non-video animations, although they are catching up.
Some users, more so those on macOS and Linux, have complained about the relatively high CPU usage of Flash for video playback.[unreliable source?] This was partially because the Flash plugin did not use the GPU to render video. Adobe has responded to some of those criticisms in the 10.1 and 10.2 releases of the Flash plugin by offloading H.264 video decoding to dedicated hardware and by introducing a new video API called Stage Video.[unreliable source?] The use of the newer ActionScript 3.0 inside Flash movies instead of the older ActionScript 2.0 improves code execution speed by a factor of around 10. The software routines written by developers can also affect the performance of applications built in Flash, reasons that would affect HTML5 animations as well.
Flash includes DRM support. The main HTML 5 standard does not include any digital rights management functionality directly, instead the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification describes a communication channel between web browsers and digital rights management (DRM) agent software. The EME is not a complete DRM implementation, but just a specification for how the DRM implementations might operate.
Historically, before EME introduction implementations could support DRM, for example in codecs. The proposal to add DRM features to HTML5 itself has been criticized by those who consider openness and vendor-neutrality (both server- and client-side) one of the most important properties of HTML, because DRM is incompatible with free software, and in the proposed form potentially not more vendor-neutral than proprietary plug-ins like Flash.
Both Flash and HTML text can be read by screen readers. However, special care must be taken to ensure Flash movies are read correctly. For example, if a Flash movie is set to repeat indefinitely, this can cause a screen reader to repeat the content endlessly. Selecting the "Make object accessible" check box in Adobe Flash Professional will create a text-only version of the object for screen readers. It will also hide any motion from the screen reader. Since Flash content is usually placed on a single webpage, it appears as a single entry in search engine result pages, unless techniques like deep linking are used with libraries like SWFAddress to provide multiple links within Flash websites and web applications. User interface widgets in Flash objects don't always behave like their host native counterparts. Keyboard, mouse and other accessibility shortcuts may not work unless the webpage developer explicitly adds support for it.
Both Flash content and HTML content can be indexed by Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, although bi-directional text (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew) is not supported by Google. Yahoo! added support for indexing Flash sites in 2008, although Google had been able to index them for several years before that. Bing added support for Flash sites in 2010.
Apple has been promoting HTML5 as an alternative to Flash for video and other content on the iOS, citing performance reasons for not allowing Adobe Flash Player to be installed on iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Flash applications can be packaged as native iOS applications via the Adobe Integrated Runtime and the iOS Packager.
- SVG may be used by several ways: it may be included into an html source code or be linked as an image source to be displayed (e.g. in
<img ... />tag);
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