Adobe Animate vs. HTML5

The web has wanted to be a broadcast-quality multimedia platform since its birth. The problem has always been that web technology, which includes markup languages and browsers, is designed to present links, text and the occasional picture.

That changed about five years in when Macromedia released Flash. Here was a colorful animation platform with sound, music and interactivity. Most importantly, it could also present video in a browser. The web changed overnight. (For purposes of this article I will use Flash and Adobe Animate interchangeably.)

For the last 20 years, Flash has dominated multimedia web content. YouTube built a billion-dollar broadcast platform on it. Zynga built a billion-dollar game platform on it. There are credible arguments the web might have gone the way of Usenet without Flash because quite frankly, without Flash the web is fairly boring.

The newest version of the browser markup language is HTML5, which desperately wants to replace Flash as the lingua franca of web multimedia. To be fair, HTML5 has come a long way from the early days of the web. There are a lot of ways it compares favorably with Flash, and many ways it falls short.

 – AUTHORING –

What Adobe Animate does better than any other platform is provide top-shelf authoring tools in the form of the Animate IDE. Here is where a designer can combine animation, video, sound and logic in the form of Actionscript into a single, manageable package that can be written once and compiled for multiple platforms with one click.

Authoring the equivalent project in HTML5 is, to be perfectly honest, a mess. HTML5 is really three languages: HTML for text and links, cascading style sheets (CSS) for design and Javascript for logic. Each language has its own syntax and idiosyncrasies and they rarely interoperate well. Add in the fact the overwhelming majority of browsers don’t fully support HTML5 yet and you have at best an experimental platform.

– MOBILE –

What developers want is the ability to author web, mobile and desktop applications with the same tools. Adobe Animate provides a wide variety of ways to build all three. HTML5 does web presentation well, but doesn’t do desktop at all and requires a wrapper application to do mobile.

The reason for this state of affairs is that HTML5 and CSS, which form two-thirds of the platform, are simply not “programming languages” in the conventional sense. The irony is Actionscript, which forms the core of Animate, is an iteration of Javascript, which is the only part of an HTML5 application that can do program logic.

– COMPATIBILITY AND PERFORMANCE –

Both Animate and HTML5 depend on a “runtime” platform to operate. HTML5 requires a web browser at all times unless it is embedded in a wrapper application and presented as a mobile app. Animate can run in a web plugin. It can also run using a proprietary runtime on a mobile device or on the desktop.

Flash performs very well with 2D animation, while HTML5 and its WebGL extensions do better at 3D games and content. Either platform can present video, although HTML5 needs the correct external codec.

Ultimately the comparison ends up with the fact that Animate can author HTML5 using its own native code base. Again, to be fair, HTML5 has come a long way, but Animate has a 20 year head start, so it will probably be a while before HTML5 can match Animate’s best capabilities.