Startup SlideShare Joins the HTML5 Wave

CTO says he was 'pushed into a corner' by Flash

Presentation-sharing startup SlideShare just announced that it's the latest company to drop Adobe's Flash technology for HTML5.

This may sound like a minor technical choice, but it's part of a larger online shift toward HTML5. Document-sharing service Scribd, for example, switched from Flash to HTML5 last year, and within a couple of weeks reported that users were spending twice as long on the site. Even Adobe has announced HTML5 products, though it also insists that Flash remains the best format for certain types of content, like gaming.

In SlideShare's case, chief technology officer Jonathan Boutelle said that the company was starting to feel like it had been "pushed into a corner by the fact that we're a very Flash-dependent site." It seemed increasingly important for SlideShare to have a presence on devices like the iPad, yet Apple was "bent on killing Flash" by refusing to support the format on smartphones and tablets, he said.

At first, SlideShare considered building downloadable apps, but Boutelle rejected that solution because it would result in building "many small mediocre things rather than one great thing." Specifically, he said SlideShare would have had to divide its engineering teams to tackle each platform, and it would also be subject to Apple's approval process every time the company wanted to update its app. So instead, Boutelle's team built a mobile website using HTML5.

Ultimately, Boutelle said HTML5 provided enough advantages that SlideShare decided to embrace the format completely, dropping Flash from its existing desktop website, too. The new format means the site now loads 30 percent more quickly, and search engines like Google can now crawl the content of presentations uploaded to SlideShare. The new site goes live today, though not all of its "several million" presentations have been converted, Boutelle said—he estimated the process would take a few more weeks.

SlideShare currently makes the majority of its money from advertising, but Boutelle projected that at current growth rates, ad revenue would be overtaken by spending on premium features within the next year.

Publish date: September 27, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT