Flash, HTML5, Java, Silverlight – which one would you use?

I am hoping to get some opinions from my readers on which technology to use for an interactive web application that is graphic intensive. Joel asked the same question three years ago and it looks like Flash was the choice then. I am really leaning toward HTML5 or Flash at this point. The main problem with HTML 5 is the tooling and support, once again, Flash seems to have amazing tooling but with a cost.

Now, given that, HTML5 is clearly being pushed into this space and is a major factor in the decision making. Most browsers today support at least Canvas (which is the primary piece needed) and the other CSS3 areas are being incorporated across the browsers slowly.

I got this chart from StatOwl and it clearly shows Flash as being the preferred installed plugin for rich internet content, but it is for “plugins” so HTML5 is not reflected. It also looks like Java is on a slow decline as of late…

7 thoughts on “Flash, HTML5, Java, Silverlight – which one would you use?

  1. There isn’t a blanket answer to what you’re asking. Each technology has its place and to think otherwise is to not truly understand the power of each.

    That being said, the project specs and requirements are what would dictate an answer. Simply saying ‘graphically intensive’ isn’t enough. Are we talking about a video game? a movie? lots of pictures in a gallery? Is the graphical intensity a concern due to processing, bandwidth, or something else?

    I’ll answer the question you seem to be asking without being extremely technical about it. As of right now, I would still go with Flash. Its object oriented for interactivity programming, the compression for video and images is still good, and while its getting popular to use alternative devices – the majority of people are still using flash-capable browsers. While it is true Apple threw a huge dent into this solution by not supporting Flash any longer – last I checked, they weren’t issuing ipads (et al) to us all šŸ™‚ Mobile phones don’t really support flash, but then again, they couldn’t handle a graphically intensive website anyway. Even my blackberry has trouble with basic news sites with a lot of content – even if flash was possible, my phone can’t handle that in any regard.

    Lastly, if you still consider the fact that a lot of people are still using windows xp, ie 5 and 6, and running a resolution of 1024×768 (or worse!), this isn’t a technology you’re going to kick to the curb anytime soon – ipad or not.

    Hope that helps.

    • This last comment seems a bit misinformed and near-sighted.
      HTML5 is the new modern open standards-based way to go and it handles all that Flash and the others do in a web browser capable of supporting it like Chrome, Safari, or any WebKit-based software. It makes up as of Nov 2012 40% of all browsers, including your Blackberry Table OS I believe and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. WebKit includes JavaSript also which should be disabled in anyone’s browser due to Java’s security holes and issues. Apple has disabled it in Safari I believe.
      USE HTML5 or any standards based solution over any proprietary locked-in, one-company controlled, expensive license, archaic option, no matter how much legacy code you might have, you’ll wind up migrating it sooner or later anyway.
      Google, Apple, Broadcom, and many other companies developed HTL 5, I believe, and it has total industry support.

      If you are talking about development outside the browser and web environment, then there are other options but the same principlew applies: stick to non-proprietary, open source, secure, tested, industry adopted standards (there are orphan standards) as stay up to date, with the program so to speak. Things are only evolving faster from here and no one company will be able to stay on top of it alone for a proprietary licensed solution, not even Apple I don’t think,
      But that’s really best for us all.
      The change is always painful of course, and the larger something is, the more painful and massive. Windows for example. Flash is another example. Lots and lots of existing code and videos on the web are handled in flash. It was the best solution when it came out. No longer true but all that stuff is still there. Costs a little to change over, takes work. Improvement always does.
      Throw away your Windows, your other Microsoft products (sorry) … pitch your Blackberries, put them next to the Wangs, the Data Generals, the Apple Newtons, the Compaqs, and so on. The iPhone and Android you’re using today won’t relly last as long as those things did because change is coming faster and faster. Like Moore’s Law applies to hardware, it seems to apply to software and other technologies as well: more succinct/smaller/streamline plus more capable/powerful in an exponential curve of upward change and complexity, dictating these massive migrations of technology, and since the population and nuymber of devices is also growing, future leaps and changes will be even LARGER. Imagine when iPhone and Android are obsolete, no longer viable or upgradeable, and “the next big thing” is so alluring and motivating for us to change?
      Painful? Hopefully these migration paths will become more technologically advanced as they have been. I mean it’s painless to switch from Windows 7 to a Nac OS machine now although time consuming. Maybe that will become more like changing underwear to a new style.
      So the lesson here is that, if you are able to choose, the latest open standard that has been adopted is the way to go if it does what you need. If it doesn’t, weigh the cost of going ‘off-road’ so to speak.
      An Adobe or Sun or whoever will always try to persuade you that their way is still and always will be best, as will their ecosystem of vendors, business partners, leeches, and epiventures. They have a business ($$$) motivation to do so. Don’t be fooled.
      I hope this helps everyone by getting a more broad impartial view.

  2. To begin with, a plugin being installed does not mean it’s actually used. Very few public non-Microsoft sites, for example, use Silverlight. Flash is a highly problematic technology, with significant issues in terms of stability and performance. It’s mostly used for games and video players, and little else.

    HTML5 implementations vary in terms of maturity, but this is a fast evolving environment, and most of them will be ready for prime time quite soon. I personally would avoid Flash, and target HTML5 if the application involved did not fit in the categories described above.

    Java Applets and Silverlight are pretty much both dead technologies, even though Java and .NET dominate the Enterprise server side, and neither is likely to disappear anytime soon in that environment. But on the client, they have little to offer that even the current slate of DOM+JavaScript frameworks do.

    • DOM+Javascript can’t compare to what Java Applets and Webstart can do, the only difference is that script kiddies don’t know how to use them.

  3. Pingback: Bob Balfe: Flash, HTML5, Java, Silverlight Ā– which one would you use?

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