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Source: Now Toronto

How much longer can we argue over computer languages?

Years, it looks like. Now in year two of successive debates over Flash and HTML5 at SXSWi, there is still no clear winner. But at least there are signs of a solution. Maybe.

Flash is stalwart developer language that has brought as much good to the web as bad. Video, interactivity, amazing animations, and thousands of other innovations in web that can go unnoticed are thanks to Flash.

But it also eats up CPU, causes browsers to crash, is way overused by advertisers and is famously not allowed on all Apple iProducts.

HTML5 is the newish alternative to it. It’s built on HTML, a well-worn standard in website development, but is still technically in development. It allows most of the advantages of Flash without many of the problems.

Last year at the Interactive conference, there was a palpable anti-Flash movement in favour of HTML5.

This year, a call to put the debate to rest.

Elliot Chong and Toby Miller, both from Resource Interactive’s RI:Lab, represented both sides of the coin at their panel Flash Is Dead! Long Live Flash!

The resolution was that Flash is not dying, despite efforts to kill it by both Apple and Microsoft (remember Silverlight?). The web is just evolving.

Flash is necessary, as is HTML5. Don’t make allegiances with either, instead embrace both.

“As modern web developers, we need to stop playing the role of platform fan boy and start embodying polyglot engineers,” said Chong.

Flash and HTML5 work better as a tandem, they agreed. SWFObject, sIFR, SWFUpload, SWFAddress – all common in everyday development, using a mix of languages.

The mock debate was a bit hokey, since both arguments were set up to arrive at the truce at the end. But the message, to avoid being devoted to any one platform in web development, is a valid one. How much better would the web be if all the Adobes and Apples let down their guard and agreed there can be more than one web standard?

At the same time, the panel left out that crucial detail that Flash is synonymous with for-profit company Adobe, which makes a wonderful suite of developer tools to use it. HTML5 has no such company behind it, and no established developer tools as of yet.

But using both will mean more than ending devotion to one platform or the other, it means dividing up the market share. I don’t expect Adobe to relent on their work with Flash so that HTML5 can just walk in and take over.  Nor should it.

Complain about the price of Adobe’s programs, as the audience did during the Q&A, but the tools work wonders and the support is there. Would the web be the same without Adobe distributing Flash? Obviously not.

I doubt there’ll be any real ceasefire on this battle anytime soon. But this more bipartisan approach is appreciated. It’s easy to pick one side and throw grenades at the other, but that hasn’t helped anyone so far.