Apple says Adobe is working to sabotage HTML5. Adobe says HTML5 is no threat to Flash. Everybody’s watching the fight, and we love the six-fingered tattooed fist in the image, guys!

While we’re all bickering, could we help by pointing out what Flash is?

folder-adobe-flashIn the first place, Flash is not an Adobe innovation. Flash was originally developed in 1992 by a company called Macromedia, when it created a browser plug-in originally for Netscape Navigator. Life went on this way for 13 years, all the way up until Adobe bought out Macromedia in 2005, in a hostile takeover which also acquired Dreamweaver. Since 2005, Flash has gone from being a relatively controversy-free plug-in to being a hotbed of drama and turmoil.

But here’s all Flash is: a way to script actions and animate images in a web browser. That’s it. It is made out of just three things: SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), XML (actually just the SMIL-type functions, for multimedia markup), and a scripting language called Actionscript (which, as is plainly evident to anyone who’s coded in it, is just an ECMAScript implementation nearly identical to Javascript).

It is very difficult to justify this plug-in in the year 2010, when it can very easily be mimicked with open standards that have existed for years. In fact, that’s exactly the case with what we’re seeing now:

  • “All major desktop browsers, and many minor browsers, have some level of SVG support, except for Internet Explorer.” No less than Tim Berners-Lee has criticized Microsoft for failing to implement SVG browser support.
  • Then we have AJAX. For basic user interface controls AJAX blows Flash away. There’s even the AJAX Animator project.
  • And then there’s Java. Java is open-source now. The Java plug-in still works, and it does much more than Flash can do anyway.

So it isn’t a case of Adobe having to defend its turf. Its turf has already been invaded, occupied, settled, and homesteaded. It lost its last leg to stand on as early as 1998, when Netscape spawned the Mozilla browser by releasing their code under the Netscape Public License.