“We are scrapping three years of Flash development and betting the company on HTML5,” Scribd CTO Jared Friedman told TechCrunch, “because we believe HTML5 is a dramatically better reading experience than Flash. Now any document can become a Web page.”
HTML5 is the emerging browser-based standard for highly interactive Web content. Google, Apple, and many other companies have pushed to make HTML5 a replacement for Adobe’s proprietary Flash technology, which has a large, impossible-to-avoid presence among interactive Web sites, especially those that play music or video.
But for Scribd’s function of hosting large text and multimedia documents in the middle of Webpages, Friedman said, Flash is disappointing, because “the document is in a box,” just as the video in a YouTube clip is contained within its player. Scribd’s pending HTML5 replacement for its Flash-based document containers will allow users to interact with the content of documents as easily and broadly as if the documents themselves were Web pages.
Scribd’s project pre-dates Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ high-profile dismissal of Flash from the company’s new iPad tablet. Friedman told TechCrunch he had been “secretly on this project for the last six months.” He said that Scribd estimates 97 percent of the Web browsers currently on computers and mobile gadgets now will support the new HTML5-based format. That’s because the parts of the HTML5 specifications used to lay out text and still images are years older than the still-emerging standards for video.
Wistia CEO Chris Savage emailed VentureBeat to say, “As for the Flash vs. HTML5 debate, we were surprised by just how many customers have been demanding HTML5 support … and that’s saying something, because most of our customers are not early adopters and many of them use Wistia only for sharing with small groups.”
It’s pretty much impossible that Flash will disappear from the Internet overnight, because HTML5 video is still in its early stages. Nor will Scribd and Wistia drop support for Flash, because of the large base of installed-and-working Flash content, and because of customers who don’t want to switch. But even Google engineers have added built-in Flash support to an upcoming version of the Chrome browser, and technologists seem to be hedging their bets after Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ high-profile attacks on Flash during the iPad’s launch period.
TechCrunch obtained a screenshot of a Scribd HTML5 document displaying advanced text layout on an iPad.
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