An Internet Revolution!

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A journey of a thousand miles will start with a single step. That's how Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is changing the Internet as we know it right now: baby steps.

Starting this week, the eyeball magnet known as YouTube has a new way of showing you videos: HTML5. That's the next-generation standards specification for the code that makes up a website, and it comes with new features like simple video support. Using HTML5 code means that your Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone can show YouTube videos right in the built-in Safari browser instead of leaning on third-party applications.

Working around the need for Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Flash code should also reduce the number of browser crashes you'll see when watching videos in Google's Chrome browser, Apple's Safari, and many others. In general, HTML5 support in YouTube is cause for cheer in geek-land (where I have proudly claimed a sizable plot of real estate practically since birth).

But it could be the beginning of the end for Adobe's hitherto dominant media platform. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) couldn't dent the Flash video solution with its Silverlight product, other than making a convert out of Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) . But HTML5 video support is included in every major browser on the market today except Microsoft's Internet Explorer. That's without installing any third-party plug-ins that are prone to crashes and cross-platform compatibility problems, which means a nicer user experience all around.

HTML5 is still in early draft stages, but it could become a semi-official recommendation from Internet standards body the World Wide Web Consortium as soon as 2012. Other than fancy audio and video player features, the new standards also provide all-new features like local data storage (handy for mobile devices and email applications, for example) and geolocation (again, great for mobile browsers like the one on your phone). Also, you know those addictive little games you see all over Facebook? The HTML5 Canvas code may soon replace Flash in all of those, too.

When every browser can play video without Flash, Adobe will lose much of the benefit from buying Flash developer Macromedia for $3.5 billion in freshly issued stock nearly five years ago. Google isn't out to kill Adobe, but collateral damage is to be expected in any revolution.

Would you buy, sell, or hold Adobe stock without Flash? Scoot on over to CAPS and rate Adobe accordingly.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google and Netflix, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple, Adobe Systems, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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  • Report this Comment On January 22, 2010, at 5:00 PM, marv08 wrote:

    There are several uses for Flash, unfortunately it has been abused far more often than been used with good measure. Blinking, animated (and sometimes even sounding) ads are an annoyance, wrapping something as trivial as video in a plug-in is an annoyance, designing Web sites that will greet you with nothing but "loading..." bars and which are resistant to normal browser navigation (like using forward and back buttons) should be "verboten"... Also unfortunately: Adobe is to blame for that, they made it the solution for everything, even leading people to believe there is a way to create professional Web content without any knowledge of coding. Does not work like that, never will.

    Flash applications are also not the answer for cross-platform development, they suffer from exactly the same problems that Java had on the client-side. People want interfaces custom tailored for their OS. Same look. Same feel. Same keyboard shortcuts. Etc. Flash and Java applications just look and feel wrong on any platform. There is no void between Web apps and native apps that anything needs to fill.

    On the other side, Flash shines when it comes to visualizing data on the Internet, like e.g. interactive graphs for surveys and elections. The free alternatives never took off, SVG still lacks usable development tools and most usable tools came from Adobe for a while - but they all have been dying rapidly once they bought Macromedia (why support an open standard, when you can make something else your cash cow?).

    The real mistake? Adobe never even tried to improve the weakest point of Flash, the player software for mobile platforms and other desktop OSs than Windows. Flash lite does not really provide the full experience on mobile phones (and drains batteries faster than movies can load) and the players for Mac and Linux systems are utter garbage. They had plenty time to work on that, and now just about everybody hates them. Serves them right. What a creative, great and user-friendly company Adobe was before Chizen ruined it...

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