For years, Adobe Flash has been the leader to add animation and interactivity to games, rich-media advertisements and different types of web pages on the Web. Up until now, Flash has offered the ability to provide built-in visual effects for both developers and graphic artists with the freedom of creative expression powered by its Flash Player. This was a browser plug-in installed on virtually every computer providing users an excellent graphical experience, with a smoother finish.
However over time, Flash became a popular target for attackers who looked to exploit vulnerabilities to display malicious ads and other video content. The tipping point, in late July 2015, hackers launched one of the largest malware attacks to infect Yahoo! websites. The hackers had disguised a malware code in Flash-served ads bought on Yahoo! sports, news and finance sites. Once infected, the user’s computer was held for ransom or directed to a website that paid the attackers for traffic.
HTML, on the other hand, has been around for more than two decades (since 1993) and was first mentioned on the Internet by Tim Berners-Lee in late 1991. In 2000, HTML finally became an international standard, a standard code we have been using to develop websites to this day. Through its constant upgrade and development, HTML has gotten a lot richer and has expanded capabilities that have caught up with Flash.
The most recent version, HTML5, is proving to be the most promising version yet. The advantage with HTML5 which has threatened the existence of Flash, is its capability to render multimedia content without the necessity of installing a plugin or a player application. But the key advantage that has gotten most people in the industry excited is its compatibility to run cross-platform on any computer as well as on mobile devices such as iPhones, Android devices, iPad, tablets and smartphones, and on platforms such as Linux and Mac OS X. Major tech companies such as Opera, Mozilla, Microsoft, Apple and Google have all rallied and given their endorsement. Even Adobe themselves have developed tools that export to HTML5 from Flash.
So much so, Google has taken further action to block Flash-based ads on their Chrome browser from today, 1 September 2015. This marks the start of a huge effect that affects the entire digital advertising industry. Google also plans to release Chrome version 44.0, which will default to rendering auto-play Flash creatives in a paused state (static) in an effort to improve battery life on laptops.
As the number of ad formats on desktop and mobile grows it makes sense to have an industry standard mobile-compatible format. This would reduce the cost of producing different mobile and desktop creatives because only a few ads would need to be built. For those designing and creating online banner ads, this is also good news as HTML5 code can be used on any platform and therefore needs only to be automatically re-sized and optimized. However, HTML5 can provide a challenge for creative agencies in how they will adapt to the code, rather than visual. In order to keep up with consumers who prefer mobile devices, the industry will have to embrace HTML5 and accept that it is here to stay.