Late last month, YouTube completed its switch from Flash to HTML5, making HTML5 the default video player on the site. Earlier this week, the folks over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog (soon to be merged with Engadget) reminded us that it was about five years ago when Steve Jobs made his (in)famous decision to stop supporting Flash on iOS in favor of tools like HTML5.
What a day that was for the eLearning industry! At the time, Flash was our lifeblood. Just about every online course we developed relied on Flash to provide interactive content. Flash was just the greatest thing ever! What was he thinking? What was this HTML5, and how on Earth could it be better than Flash?
We’ve learned a lot in the past five years, and today Steve Jobs’ letter is an instructive read. Flash, he reminds us, is a proprietary, closed system. HTML5 is an open standard that everyone can use, free of charge. Flash is not touch-friendly. It was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. We are now in the mobile era, the age of smart devices that go where we go. What’s important for content deployment now is low power devices, touch interfaces, and open Web standards – not desktop PCs or laptops.
Today we know that HTML5 enables development of rich, interactive, responsive content. Content that plays on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. True, Steve Jobs sent us scrambling, and even now it can be difficult to develop HTML5 content. The tools are slowly catching up (and more are on the horizon), but we’re finally starting to be able to cut our ties with Flash. It’s been a tough road, but it was worth the trip.