Flash, iPad, Standards

Lack of Flash in the iPad (and before that, in the iPhone) is a win for accessible, standards-based design. Not because Flash is bad, but because the increasing popularity of devices that don’t support Flash is going to force recalcitrant web developers to build the semantic HTML layer first. Additional layers of Flash UX can then be optionally added in, just as, in proper, accessible, standards-based development, JavaScript UX enhancements are added only after we verify that the site works without them.

As the percentage of web users on non-Flash-capable platforms grows, developers who currently create Flash experiences with no fallbacks will have to rethink their strategy and start with the basics before adding a Flash layer. They will need to ensure that content and experience are delivered with or without Flash.

Developers always should have done this, but some don’t. For those who don’t, the growing percentage of users on non-Flash-capable platforms is a wake-up call to get the basics right first.

Whither, plug-ins?

Flash won’t die tomorrow, but plug-in technology is on its way out.

Plug-in technology made sense when web browsing was the province of geeks. It was a brilliant solution to the question of how to extend the user experience beyond what HTML allowed. People who were used to extending their PC via third-party hardware, and jacking the capabilities of their operating system via third-party spell checkers, font managers, and more, intuitively grasped how to boost their browser’s prowess by downloading and updating plug-ins.

But tomorrow’s computing systems, heralded by the iPhone, are not for DIYers. You don’t add Default Folder or FontExplorer X Pro to your iPhone, you don’t choose your iPhone’s browser, and you don’t install plug-ins in your iPhone’s browser. This lack of extensibility may not please the Slashdot crowd but it’s the future of computing and browsing. The bulk of humanity doesn’t want a computing experience it can tinker with; it wants a computing experience that works.

HTML5, with its built-in support for video and audio, plays perfectly into this new model of computing and browsing; small wonder that Google and Apple’s browsers support these HTML5 features.

The power shifts

Google not only makes a browser, a phone, an OS, and Google Docs, it also owns a tremendous amount of video content that can be converted to play in HTML5, sans plug-in. Apple not only makes Macs, iPhones, and iPads, it is also among the largest retail distributors of video and audio content.

Over the weekend, a lot of people were doing the math, and there was panic at Adobe and schadenfreude elsewhere. Apple and Adobe invented modern publishing together in the 1980s, and they’ve been fighting like an old unmarried couple ever since, but Apple’s decision to omit Flash from the iPad isn’t about revenge, it’s about delivering a stable platform. And with HTML5 here, the tea leaves are easy to read. Developers who supplement Flash with HTML5 may soon tire of Flash—but Adobe has a brief but golden opportunity to create the tools with which rich HTML5 content is created. Let’s see if they figure that out.

Discussion has moved to a new thread.

180 thoughts on “Flash, iPad, Standards

  1. I will just be happy once there are no more restaurant sites in Flash. Nothing more annoying than being out, looking for a place to eat, only to find their menu and / or phone number are embedded in Flash.

  2. I think this is the second post I’ve read since the iPad panic last week from a person that gets it; more specifically, your point about future or new computing. The people that can’t divorce themselves from that idea of the non-specific, unfocused yet highly customizable computing paradigm are about to find themselves in the minority. While some might see these closed-system, one-at-a-time functioning devices as draconian, the manual manipulation of data with your fingers and on-screen cues taken from their real world counterparts are the future of interaction. These new devices allow ‘computing’ to get out of the way of what users really want to do: interact with data.

  3. My tinkering is why my system upgrades almost invariably end in disaster, whereas the average Mac user’s system upgrades are as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The future is consumerist.

    These new devices allow ‘computing’ to get out of the way of what users really want to do: interact with data.

    I agree.

    And Apple was brilliant to see this before we did.

  4. 5 years from now on, there will be 2 kinds of “computers”

    1) Traditional computers for who creates stuff on them (professionals) & geeks.
    2) The computers whose ancestor is the iPad for the rest (I think calling them computers is wrong).

    And this is a good thing.

  5. but Apple’s decision to omit Flash from the iPad isn’t about revenge, it’s about delivering a stable platform.

    I think that’s an excuse at best. Lets not forget that JavaScript on most websites crashed Safari on the first iPhone… and how many apps in the app store ask you to restart your phone before installing, or have complaints from users saying the app crashes straight after launch?

    I don’t think any website should rely on Flash, but at the other end of the spectrum, with complex applications there are just some things a plugin will always have the edge on.

  6. Jeffrey,

    Well played! You said it better than I could have, probably because I was more POed that everyone and their brother has an opinion on the iPad, whether or not I wanted to hear it, and I was getting sick of the overdose.

    So I told Robert Scoble know how I felt about it (and his opinion), which started a Twitstorm: “@Scobleizer When I consider how often Flash crashes my browsers, I’m glad Flash is NOT on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.

    Short of screaming “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” from the stage with a broken leg, I think I did a pretty good job of impaling myself. Thanks for the vindication!

  7. Let’s be honest – Apple wants to limit the ways that users can get their entertainment. And Flash (games especially) gets in the way of their app store. Yes, I believe they are a good proponent of standards and such, but they are much more of a proponent of Apple than altruism.

    And I think (as a Flash developer) that it IS a good thing to make more *hacks* realize that they must conform to certain standards. There is bad Flash out there, just as there is bad anything.

    In this instance – Hate the sinner not the sin ;)

  8. It’s useful to recall that for most people, a computer is a tool used to create or interact with information. There will likely always be tools that appeal to geeks who want to peer under the hood, tinker and try to create The Next Big Thing. But for the vast majority of end users – you know, the market that actually buys these tools in large numbers – accessing, reading and manipulating information IS the Big Thing.

  9. Copying Chuck Shottons’ comment at scripting.com

    You know, this issue of open vs. closed, pubic vs. private, with respect to the iPhone platform is really missing the mark. Here’s why. Apple says they disallow Flash because (pick one) it’s buggy, it’s a CPU hog, it’s proprietary, etc. But they also disallow Java and it is none of those things. And they do it for the same reason that they do it for Flash. And it has NOTHING to do with their stated reasons. It is, quite simply, because Flash and Java can both be delivered via the web, completely bypassing the App Store. Period. End of excuses, er, story.

  10. Flash will not die it will adapt. Flash is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to communicating with server side language. We might see restaurant and hotels slowing down on the flash, but software development has unlimited possibilities. E-learning, corporate internal sites, data management,

    Making data beautiful and easy to read and manipulate is Flash’s wet dream.

  11. Flash is a fine way to make a user experience outside the browser. I design kiosks, installations, and educational software in Flash.
    I never use Flash in web sites. It’s simply the wrong tool for the job.

  12. Ok, fair enough.

    Flash designers and developers took everyone’s bread for some years. Now, moving on to the next thing; Rich Media served over markup. Nice. No more plugins is the future some foresee.

    Now, from a standards perspective, one of the most approachable aspects of all the speculation in the last couple days is video. DRM and Codecs. How long is that going to take to standardize in our industry? Another 10 years? Will Apple ever support Ogg? Will Mozilla adapt H.264? Maybe we’ll have a fixed version of IE by then.

  13. Until a few days ago, I was among those whispering “good riddance” to Flash under our collective breaths. But John Nack’s (Adobe) defense of Flash* force me think hard about whether the HTML5 video tag can truly replace Flash, and I’m starting to have my doubts:

    – With HTML5, can you add queue points in the video, and then perform actions (e.g. scripts) when you hit those points?
    – Can you stream video, and then drag the slider to any point in the video, even if that portion of the video hasn’t loaded, let go, and watch the video from that point on?
    – Flash is more than just streaming video. There are other special techniques (like bitmap effects) that are not possible using HTML (although CSS3 is starting to bridge that gap with transitions, scaling and rotations). The Canvas element might make that point moot eventually. I hope.

    Someday, I hope the combination of HTML5, CSS3 (and 4 and 5 …), JavaScript, Canvas, and what-else-comes-down-the-path will let us create an accessible, rich, multimedia experience that can rival Flash.

    * Link to John Nack’s defense of Flash: http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2010/01/sympathy_for_the_devil.html
    via rc3.org: http://rc3.org/2010/01/28/adobes-john-nack-defends-flash/

  14. (Disclaimer: Adobe employee; my words, not Adobe’s.)

    HTML5, with its built-in support for video and audio, plays perfectly into this new model of computing and browsing; small wonder that Google and Apple’s browsers support these HTML5 features.

    Well, let’s see. Apple gets the video and audio element for free via QuickTime, since they, like Adobe, are H.264 licensees. And YouTube gets HTML5 support for free because they already output H.264, thanks to Flash Player’s existing support for it. Google is apparently also licensing H.264 in Chrome. It’s not exactly revolutionary for either of them: the content and the servers are ready for them because they were created for Flash Player.

    But then, Mozilla and Opera do not support H.264, and may never do so. Mozilla makes a philosophical point of it. And IE doesn’t support it, despite MS being an H.264 licensee.

    So no, HTML5 isn’t imminently replacing Flash for video. It needs to break the format logjam for that to happen. In the meantime, if all that matters is the video (and not the interface, or DRM, or accessibility), you can reach everyone today by using Flash and falling back to the video element (or vice-versa). But going the pure standards route, at least for the foreseeable future, means you get to serve two different formats and still abandon IE users.

    There’s also no standard in place in any of these HTML5 players for captioning or audio description. Flash Player has supported this for several years. (It even uses a W3C standard, Timed Text, for captioning. Yay, web standards!)

    I agree with most of your post, strangely enough, but I think the conclusion is at least premature. The most universal solution for video is still Flash Player, and as long as there’s all this indirection on HTML5 video, that will remain true. If 3 out of the 5 major browsers aren’t even playing the vast majority of the video that’s already out there, I can’t see how that’s a win for standards. To me, that looks like a self-inflicted wound. In the rush to declare Flash Player dead, users are the ones who are going to lose out. I like web standards. (I used to work for W3C, for Tim’s sake.) But I also like user choice, and somehow that’s gotten lost in the shuffle.

  15. Wrong! Apple doesn’t support Flash because Flash is a content delivery system which makes the iTunes system virtually needless.

    Before I go any further though…this article started off OK. If you develop web sites that include Flash for elements like navigation or forms…that’s bad.

    However, if you develop a web site which is a home for piles of free games, music, video and other content which happens to be delivered with Flash…that is not wrong. In fact thanks for keeping the internet free of BS constraints.

    Apple is no longer a hardware company or a software company. Apple is a content company. Their business model has shifted in the last 10 years and Flash does not fit in their model.

    I mean c’mon…are you trying to tell me you believe the wizards at Microsoft can figure out a way to make Flash run stable on IE but Apple can not? Please.

  16. If Apple is going after a customer base that is truly the novice-level, non-tinkering demographic then I have to wonder where blame will be placed for broken web-browsing experiences. Logic would dictate that most of this demographic would have no concept of plugins, or even care. I hope that Apple knows what it’s doing, because the reaction I would expect from novice users, when they see blue lego bricks on bunches of video sites, is to blame the iPad.

  17. I don’t really care to see Flash inside of a browser, and I’m not a big fan of Flash being used for the presentation of website information, however, Flash/Flex would be a perfect vehicle for creating apps. I think this is the big reason we aren’t seeing flash support from a business strategy perspective (as pointed out by Mr. Shotton’s comment)

  18. I’m not sure that “panic at Adobe” is the best description of what happened/is happening. It wasn’t exactly a huge surprise that the iPad followed the iPhone with it’s lack of any plug-in support. Also, Adobe folks themselves have said that it would only be natural for Adobe to create tools to author HTML5 content. In fact, they’ve started to already.

    These are interesting times, for sure.

  19. They won’t figure it out! They can’t even figure out how to write a plugin that works on 64-bits. The only thing keeping Adobe afloat is their monopoly of PDF and Photoshop. Only a matter of time before Google overtakes the former.

  20. Some of the Flash chatter from Flash developers reminds me of 10 years ago when web designers who were creating sites in tables reacted to CSS. You’d hear arguments like, “My website works with tables, why do I need to bother with CSS?” If I were a Flash developer, I would be learning HTML5 in a hurry. Your Flash sites may be working now, but when these new devices like anything Apple or Google are creating aren’t supporting Flash, your sites can benefit from new standards. Plus adding new tools in your toolbox will make you more versatile and hireable. So you can continue to squak about the status quo or you can continue to evolve.

  21. @Jake DiMare, Can you name some of the content that Apple produces that makes them a content company?

    If Flash technology was open and standardized so that Flash content could be openly created by non-Adobe tools this argument in it’s defense might be different. Adobe is concerned about being locked out of the iPhone/iPad. Is it Apple’s responsibility to ensure Adobe has a revenue stream. The current argument seems to be that one company’s proprietary technology doesn’t work with another company’s proprietary technology.

  22. This “death of Flash” meme is incredibly overblown, and personally, the people screaming about how iPad will surely, finally be the device that gives everyone an accessible, usable Internet appliance are akin to Chamberlain waving his worthless Munich Agreement around saying “peace for our time.”

    Let me be clear: I do think Flash is under threat, and I would not be surprised if five years from now we considered it alongside RealPlayer as “stuff we used to use before the web got better.” And honestly, I wouldn’t be more happy to see the end of Flash if it meant we were living in an accessible HTML/CSS world.

    But a plurality of users are still on IE (and will be for years to come). Even if Apple sold 75 million iPads in the first 12 months it would still be a minority of computer + cellphone users in the world. And right now HTML5, excuse me, HTML is in the hands of a Google employee surrounded by his yes-men that don’t necessarily represent the desires of users and creators, much less Apple, and HTML5 the W3C standard is mired in a political battle between the WHATWG cabal and the mandarins in the W3C who are representing constituent groups WHATWG has done little to speak to or placate. We’re a long way from having enough of a bolus of Flash-free browsers to force the end of the Flash plugin.

    And meanwhile you have the great problem of the Internet appliance. Companies have tried for years to push out all sorts of web appliances — remember WebTV? — and they’ve all ultimately failed, mostly because they lack certain computer attributes people wanted more than the appliance attributes they were offered.

    There’s been a lot of focus on multitasking of late, how we don’t need it. And yes, you don’t need it if you’re only doing one thing at a time on an iPad. But I’d offer that without being able to have a word processor AND a browser open at the same time you can’t write a paper. That would suggest you need Google Docs running inside Mobile Safari… and at this moment in time, you can’t create a document in Google Docs on the iPhone. (At least I haven’t been able to.) That could be fixed, of course, but it does make me wonder how many other things right now we have that do require two apps being open.

    A number of Internet appliances didn’t have multitasking. And while that’s not a deal-killer for most, what was an issue was unitasking. WebTV you could surf the web and read e-mail… and that was it. Document creation? Financial management? Ha.

    But ultimately, what makes this feel like selling out the Sudetenland is that fear of proprietary lockup. There’s a lot of Godwin in the arguments, yes, but you do worry that we’re trading the idea of “one tablet for all” and “a more robust and less crash-laden device” and “HTML/CSS 4-eva” for a centrally-planned, heavily managed web that requires much genuflecting before you can enter it. And this could be the natural evolution of things, just as cars became more standardized, but in the case of cars it was the Feds just as much as the Fords that drove the standardization through highway laws and safety laws. Here the people dictating the new rules will be corporations, not users.

    The “libertarian” and “Wild West” web has been slowly dying off this last decade, but is replacing it with a “benign” dictatorship really what’s best? I mean, isn’t that the heart of the argument against Ian Hixson writing the HTML5 spec? Wasn’t that the heart of the hatred for Microsoft all those years?

    Can a dictatorship be benign?

    All that said, Flash isn’t going anywhere. Yet. Adobe still has time to alter course, Apple and Google still could be smacked around by the antitrust division, and the iPad still needs to go on sale and prove itself to be not just a big iPhone.

    And meanwhile, my iPhone’s browser crashes much more regularly than Firefox (on my PC) does, so I’m not sure what special sauce you’re getting in your phones.

  23. I recall in 1984, when I had an Apple IIe and the Macintosh was introduced, how I and my high school friends scoffed at the toy-like simplicity of the Mac. No command line? Interacting with my computer via …. *pictures*?!?! How childish!

    Yeah… I was an idiot. I’m more understanding this time.

    It’s helped that, as I’ve gotten older, I have much less patience with the plug-in, custom system mindset. I used to be all about dissecting & tinkering with any device, especially my computer. But now I just don’t have the time or energy for it — I feel like I’ve learned what I had to learn from that, and now I just want my technology to get out of my way and let me do my work, communicate with people, and play my damn games.

    And for my senior citizen parents — I will seriously consider getting them something like an iPad with a keyboard — something they can’t screw up, and that they simply do not have to understand any more than “touch X to use X.” The PC they currently have is a devil. I could swear it has goat horns.

  24. Its so hard for me to be either pro or con with the future of flash. One of the things that I haven’t really seen anyone discuss is what the demise of flash will mean for advertising. There are millions, if not billions, of $$$ resting on media buying companies, ad agencies, and Fortune 500s that use flash as they’re means of banner advertising. I believe in a unified standard, but right now I think money is going to do the talking. Is there such thing as an HTML5 Banner?

    The other thing that seems discerning to me is that no one has addressed the fact that HTML5 is NOT a substitute for deep flash interactivity like games, 3D, and the like. To take it a step further, a future without plug-ins really means a future without easily accessible online gaming. And you have to realize that this also means no high end online gaming engines like Unity.

    Shit, I’d be terrifically happy if the entire internet went Flash free because that means web designers would all have more work doing redesigns of all the Flash sites, widgets, etc… that are out there.

    At the end of the day, no matter what stance anyone has, we’re all basing our opinions on the same thing……its all about money.

  25. @Jim Renaud Yikes, not the same at all! Tables and CSS are 2 ways of doing the same thing – layout. Flash and HTML5 mostly solve different problems. I say good on HTML5 where it’s appropriate, but Flash still has the majority of it’s use cases intact. Besides, people will still be making table websites for years to come…

  26. Lack of Flash in the iPad (and before that, in the iPhone) is a win for accessible, standards-based design

    The use of the word accessible above is disingenuous. Accessibility isn’t about using HTML, and layering CSS and JavaScript on top of that. Accessibility is about creating accessible interfaces using accessibility supporting technologies, of which Flash is one of them. Please don’t denigrate the hard work of the Flash developers who are putting a load of effort into promoting the accessible development within the Flash community. The Web is best served working together, not taking potshots at the expense of hard working people.

    You chose to limit your own understanding of accessibility best practices by limiting your own technology choices. Please don’t force your assumption on others.

    So Flash doesn’t have perfect levels of accessibility support (cf. Flex), the pure Flash approach is good enough. As a counterpoint HTML5 has some serious failing and lapses in it’s accessibility support (cf. Canvas).

    I mean c’mon…are you trying to tell me you believe the wizards at Microsoft can figure out a way to make Flash run stable on IE but Apple can not? Please.

    I would have thought the Flash plugin was written by Adobe, why the IE developers need to do something special for Flash sounds like a breach of the plugin concept. So Adobe have obviously spent some time making it stable on Windows, but not invested the same endeavour in making it stable on a Mac. Why should Apple accept being a second-class citizen? With that premise, disallowing Flash on non-Windows devices needing to be stable, like the iPhone and iPad, is a technical no-brainer.

    Adobe have been called to task here, by Steve Jobs, as to the unacceptable performance of Flash on a Mac. If they want to get their multiple runtimes on these mobile devices, then they need to get the technical issues sorted properly.

  27. I’m adding this to my online bookmarks tagged “thanksgiving” and I’ll read it again in November.

    I am thankful you wrote this, because you’re right: consumers are hopeful things will work everywhere. But developers are tasked with making it so.

    The better things are for developers, the better things are for consumers. Once you strip away the heated arguments over brands like Apple and Adobe and get to the heart of the matter… well, you just did! Thanks dude.

  28. With all due respect, what’s any more “DIY” about a plug-in vs. an app? If the bulk of humanity doesn’t want an experience they can tinker, then what the hell is up with the iPhone App Store’s billions of downloads?

    By design, iPhone and Ipad are resolutely extensible software environments. This dogpile on Flash for the sake of Apple’s business model does nothing to harken the end of that approach to software design, or the bulk of humanity’s interest in tinkering.

  29. While I don’t like Flash, I disagree with the posting and most of the comments – you seem to have mistaken an analogy for an argument.

    Computers aren’t cars or fridges: we’re talking about changing bits and bytes instead of pips or cylinders. There’s no technical reason an electronic device can’t support both appliance-users (by providing a simple default configuration that just works) *and* tinkerers (by not locking people out from making changes if they want to). That’s what most netbooks do, and I don’t see a lot of consumers complaining that they’re allowed to change them if they want to.

    Of course, if I wanted people to be forced to buy apps, e-books, music and video only from my stores, then I’d be strongly inclined to lock down their devices so that they couldn’t make changes – it would have nothing to do with progress, and everything to do with monopolistic behaviour. And if I could count on thousand of unwitting fans to throw up a smokescreen about appliance computing on my behalf, then all the better.

  30. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle, between “we don’t support Flash because it’s crashy” and “we don’t support Flash because it’s a threat to the App Store.” (A convenient coincidence, similar to Microsoft’s woes with the Eolas patent?)

    That said, it took me a little over two hours to recreate my site’s Flash audio player in HTML 5 with some JQuery and CSS. The potential here is pretty exciting. No more wishing I had the source FLA files (and the Flash authoring environment!) in order to change a few UI details. No compile step needed. No SWFObject helper libraries. Write it in HTML, skin it with CSS, wire it up with JS. Done.

    (I wouldn’t expect this kind of cool, in-browser rich media experience from mobile Safari, so long as it absolutely must hand control off to another app.)

  31. Good article.

    Apple does have certain issues with Flash and the App Store that seem to go unmentioned. Adobe has attempted to work with Apple on making it work better like on the Windows PC Box in using the GPU pipeline, but Apple won’t cooperate.

    Apple’s main problem is that they try to control everything and filter it through their precious little app store. At least working more closely with Adobe while leaving the option to install Flash up to the user instills a more openness to solve the current problems, but Apple doesn’t seem to wanna roll like that.

    So to that I say, Apple Fail.

  32. The argument that Apple doesn’t allow Flash is because the want to sell apps doesn’t hold much water. Those who think this is the case haven’t really done the math to see that the app store isn’t a cash cow at all. In fact, if it is making money, it’s nickels and dimes compared to their overall revenue. And that’s a big if. I’d bet the app store is a loss leader for the hardware, where they make the big chili.

    If Adobe, or anyone else believes that non-Flash support will be a deterrent, they are sorely mistaken. Your average consumer doesn’t go in with a laundry list of requirements prior to purchase, and get to Has Flash and say, “no, not for me”. The sales figures back this up, and the iPad won’t suffer without Flash.

    Seems to me that it’s a lot of bellyaching and whining on Adobe’s part, rather than rethink and retool. As for me, Flash generally isn’t an important part of my experience and I don’t miss it on the iPhone.

  33. Uhm… are you guys forgetting that Adobe has already figured out how to compile Flash source into iPhone/iPad Apps, and that this will be included in CS5? So very soon you will see the App store flooded with Apps built in Flash. It’s great if HTML5 can take care of some of the stuff that Flash is doing nowadays on the web, but you can already compile Flash projects into any other type of application be it desktop, web, or mobile.

  34. you mean, 85% of those award winning sites in my Communication Arts Interactive Annual, …the websites lauded as the elite of our profession, …won’t work on my iPhone / iPad?

  35. Week one: developers proclaim YouTube’s HTML 5 video player marks the ‘death’ of Flash; Week two: developers foretell the end of computing as we know it. Good Lord, what should I expect to read next?!

  36. @Michael

    yes CS5 converting to iphone apps is Adobe’s answer (workaround) to Apple not allowing flash on the iPhone. This still doesn’t address the issue of the iPad not allowing Flash. The iPad is touted as a competitor to the netbook/laptop, and I was certainly looking forward to buying one myself. But without Flash or Multitasking I can’t use it! It’s just a toy really, an oversized iPod Touch and that sucks! Apple really dropped the ball as to what could have been the greatest computing device ever.

  37. Anything that drives designers and developers down the road of web standards is surely a good thing. Can this really be the beginning of the end of sites that are built entirely in flash, from the menu navigation to the content? Hopefully so.

    This will hopefully encourage the adoption of progressive enhancement, like you said. Build a working site in HTML and CSS first, THEN enhance it with flash and javascript if you feel it will add the the experience. Youtube surely predicted Apple’s move in their rapid adoption of HTML5 video. Now we are seeing the benefits of such a decision.

  38. I agree that the lack of Flash on the Iphone and Ipad will definitely force developers to take standards much more into consideration… This is the only positive thing about this whole situation.

    I think it is obvious that the omission of Flash from the IPad is purely a financial decision meant to control how users experience media on their devices. Steve Jobs’s recently reported complaints about Flash being slow and buggy to me are just excuses to cover up his true intent to funnel as much media and application distribution through iTunes and the App Store. I don’t think it’s about revenge at all. As always, its just about money.

  39. My concern for Apple at this point are Facebook apps; and weather people will be willing to sacrifice them for the experience of the iPad.

    However, my biggest concern is that flash will end up on other tablets, like hp and dell, and slow HTML5 take-up. Developers don’t like making things twice and Flash is already popular.

    We swill see soon enough though. Go HTML5!

  40. @Mitchell: Exactly right. Sorry, but I call BS on the people claiming it’s Apple’s attempt to protect their music/media/app store/[fill-in-the-blank] revenues. Complete, total, 100% BS.

    First: As part of their earnings reports (which IIRC they are legally accountable for) Apple has repeatedly stated that they run their content businesses on a “more or less break-even basis,” as a tool for promoting hardware sales. And every time I’ve had an opportunity to do a little back-of-the-envelope estimating, this has been borne out; they may make some profit (important distinction from revenue!) from content sales, but trivially so compared to the profit they make from hardware sales.

    Second: When you can do unrestricted media streaming through HTML5/H.264, it’s rather silly to claim that they’re trying to lock you into buying content through their stores, wouldn’t you agree? Not to mention native streaming apps like TV.com’s, which seems like a rather obvious loophole to allow if you really are trying to keep people from watching anything but what they can buy from you.

    @_Mark: From what I understand, the ‘direct hardware access’ thing is rather more arguable than you make it sound. From what I understand, Adobe wants to do an end-run around the hardware abstraction layer in OS X, not so much because it improves performance, but because it lets them work they way they’re used to doing in Windows. I admit, as someone who prefers a degree of hardware abstraction for portability reasons, I don’t have much sympathy for Adobe’s viewpoint.

    Finally, and I admit I’m not speaking as a Flash developer here, how much of the ‘interactivity’ features will actually work on a touchscreen? It seems like hover, for example, is pretty much impossible to implement on a touchscreen.

  41. Billions of PC’s sold is conclusive evidence that consumers are too stupid and obviously can’t be trusted to make choices about the stuff they run on and plug into their systems. If only the TV guys would figure this out we could finally have TV’s that only play a few magically chosen channels.


  42. “As the percentage of web users on non-Flash-capable platforms grows, developers who currently create Flash experiences with no fallbacks will have to rethink their strategy and start with the basics before adding a Flash layer. They will need to ensure that content and experience are delivered with or without Flash.”

    However, once Adobe releases the mobile version of Flash 10.1, the trend will likely reverse as the Flash-capable devices grow. All the major smart phones, except for Apple will carry Flash, as well as I imagine other non-Apple tablets coming out this year. Meanwhile Flash CS5 will have a iPhone/iPad export, so Flash developers will be able to create native applications to Flash websites.

    That said, it only makes sense to have fall back content for users who don’t have Flash, unless it’s a complex application or game that is difficult to make alternative content. There’s plenty of tools like the Gaia framework that help automate the task of creating non-Flash content while creating the Flash content, that there’s little excuse not to include it.

  43. I am surprised in the wake of the iPad announcement, we’re finally having a serious, huge discussion about how crappy Flash is.

    Yes, us web developers have discussed this for a long time. But now, thanks to Apple, this discussion appears to be bigger than it has in a long time.

    I wasn’t completely sold on the iPad “game-changing” abilities at first. If only for the discussion Apple has created, I was dead wrong.

  44. to all the flash lovers like myself , there are alternatives that will run flash, java, silverlight and will multitask, and do everything Apple’s Mobiles won’t do.

  45. I think developers should indeed push for open standards… it’s in our best interests. However, I for one don’t have the inclination to tell my clients that their sites/applications will be limited to one browser or another. So we explain the Flash issue for the mobile browsers and H.264 issue for Mozilla/IE. And when we code, we detect the browser/platform and output content accordingly. This is the same headache that we faced back when tables, CSS, and asynchronous HTTP weren’t supported across all browsers. As for Flash and Silverlight – let’s just say that developers, managers and/or software architects should be smacked in the head for allowing such proprietary technologies to pervade.

    As a pragmatist, I also think Apple, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, and anyone else who has a stake in this should put immense amounts of pressure on Adobe to open source all of the Flash player codebase. The end result could be better for the web.

    As for H.264, I wish their was an easy way to supplant it with something open, but I don’t foresee this happening. The cost of licensing for Apple/Google is peanuts for the quality and content control that they get out of it. Mozilla and IE will not fall by the wayside as it relates to H.264. There will be FOSS plug-ins produced for Firefox/Thunderbird. And Microsoft will eventually implement the functionality or someone will write a plug-in to deal with H.264.

  46. Anyone lamenting the lack of Flash on the iPhone/iPad has never had to listen to their MacBook fan screaming away because they want to watch a 2-minute video. Good riddance I say.

  47. @Khürt Williams:

    “If Flash technology was open and standardized so that Flash content could be openly created by non-Adobe tools this argument in it’s defense might be different.”

    Not that it matters much to the main subject here, but for the record, you can create Flash content using free and open sourced tools. The Flex SDK is free and open source and there is FlashDevelop, a non-Adobe editor that is free and open source.

    I’m no expert at open source licenses and such, but I’m guessing this stuff is perhaps not open enough for some, or fully based on standards, but at least it free.

  48. Back in the day all I did was Flash design, but over the last ten years I’ve really distanced myself from it more and more. I think there was a valid point above about it being great for kiosks and special projects where you have some control or knowledge of the target platform. However, the web as a whole is quite the opposite. People complain about no Flash on the iPhone and have for quite a while, but going on my second year with my iPhone I’d say I don’t miss the Flash that is on the web. I want at the information. If I want to play a mind wasting game I’ll start up Bejeweled or something. The other factor is the wide availability of high speed internet. Flash was king at getting full screen graphics and animation into small payloads, but that is much less of a concern now. Overall I think it will always have a place, but I’ll be happy for it to not have the prominence it currently does for being used to deliver actual content.

  49. Jeffrey, you’ve got many unsubstantiated assertions in there. Your last paragraph, particularly, is unestablished.

    Instead of going on about “This is what I think will happen, and therefore it is so!”, it’s usually more productive to examine the basis of your own knowledge, of “How do I know what I think I know?” That focus makes it easier to be concise, to be accessible.

    (For mobile web, every major manufacturer (except Apple) is working in the Open Screen Project. The dynamics you see today are not the dynamics you will see in two months, so beware linear extrapolations.)


  50. @Iain I disagree. Tables isn’t the same thing as CSS. Tables is a limited layout style to layout tabular data not an entire site. The Flash most consumers want is video and music like YouTube, Hulu, Last.fm & Pandora which can be solved without Flash using HTML5 and h.264 (all but Hulu have jumped on board). Most of the other uses for Flash like games are being addressed in the App Store. I just don’t see why Flash support is necessary.

    So why would Apple have to risk a buggy plugin they have no control over for not much gain? MLB app is a perfect example of what I am talking about. I have a better user experience with the MLB app on my iPhone than I do on the Flash heavy MLB website. That’s insane! You’d think a website with much more resources would crush a phone experience, but it’s not even close!

    Apple and Google are betting that the future is not the Flash experience. If I were a Flash programmer, I wouldn’t want to be stuck only knowing one tool. Anyone hiring Director programmers?

  51. maybe when you see add’s releasead with canvas or a full website’s like http://9elements.com/io/projects/html5/canvas/ you rebuild you opinion.
    maybe if you wait more 10 years to see inovations on the web because html6 is not ready or because browser dont support some new tags … you rebuild your opinion.
    maybe if you want develop a small application to a local commerce and it is not approved by hardware manager with no reason or internal politics … you rebuild you opinion.
    this option is killing a chance for complex ria’s on browser. for innovation and private research for improve web.
    the user must choice always, not apple or other company. open you mind, don’t be a sheep running in the direction proposed by the dog.

  52. I agree with Matt May and many of your other posters.

    Flash is on the way out, however fast or slow that may be, but Apple’s lack of interest in Flash or Java has nothing to do with the technologies involved, only control over their device and its eco-system.

  53. Apple says they disallow Flash because (pick one) it’s buggy, it’s a CPU hog, it’s proprietary, etc. But they also disallow Java and it is none of those things. And they do it for the same reason that they do it for Flash. And it has NOTHING to do with their stated reasons. It is, quite simply, because Flash and Java can both be delivered via the web, completely bypassing the App Store. Period. End of excuses, er, story.

    Except that Flash and at the time of the iPhone launch Java could be turned off at the source, Javascript and all of the other things that Apple has allowed cannot. If Adobe decides to stop supporting Flash runtimes on Apple hardware, how screwed is Apple and their customers? By comparison, Apple is reliant on nobody to deliver Javascript, HTML5, h.264, AAC, ePub, or all the rest. When Adobe couldn’t ship decent PDF clients, Apple created their own. Can Apple create their own Flash runtime if Adobe decides to check out?

    This isn’t a hypothetical – it’s happened many, many times in Apple’s history and we’ve even seen it in spats with Adobe over Apple pro/consumer tools.

    Your argument would have merit if Apple hadn’t have dumped so much of their own energy into advancing Javascript and HTML5, which are also delivered via the web, completely bypassing the App store. Further, Apple championed completely bypassing the App store and still does, so basically, your theory is full of crap.

    The only reason Flash isn’t there is because Apple can’t fix it if Adobe screws it up. That’s all there is to it. That’s pretty much the central theme to every decision Apple is making now across their product line.

  54. The bulk of humanity doesn’t want a computing experience it can tinker with; it wants a computing experience that works.

    While I find it rarely pays to contradict conventional wisdom, I believe “that works” is more volatile in this field than say in automobiles.

    Defining “that works” for the bulk of humanity seems to me to be hard to do in order to reach a majority. The appliances that have succeeded are generally very specific, toasters or TiVos for example.

    The proliferation of computer based appliances may solve the problem (as brands and models of cars do) but I doubt there will ever be a single, monolithic, untinkerable device that will dominate.

  55. I hope you are only talking about corporate websites.
    I’m starting to have the feeling that usability specialist have a problem with people experimenting with the web.
    Why can’t i be able to make a site as i want to, and watch it on every device that i want to?
    Take this for instance: http://www.hobnox.com/audiotool.
    It is a very cool project, that you simply cannot reproduce with Javascript or CSS! I want to be able to view this on my iPhone, but usability specialists decide for me that i can’t.

    and i can name hundreds of other websites and apps that are amazing and i would want to be able to view on my iPhone, but you guys keep fighting against me.

    Putting a stop on Flash is NOT a formula for good webdesign!!!!
    People have made horrible things in HTML, so perhaps we should just shut down the entire internet then?

    If i’m on a huge sandy beach during summer, and i want to build a sandcastle, are you the guy telling me that i should make a port on the castle, even if i don’t want any ports? And if i don’t make a port, will you take away my shovel and bucket, because i’m not doing it “the way it should be done”?

    Well fuck that, i just wanna play!

    I think you guys are killing creativity.
    Nice job.

  56. I’m tired of people claiming that all Apple wants is app store revenue. How many of these supposedly revenue stealing flash games would be paid games on the app store? They’d be free, not paid. Sent to customers via Apple’s bandwidth.

    Most flash games I’ve played expected interaction that wouldn’t work well on an iPhone. I have no arrow keys. I can’t hover my pointer before I click. My screen is tiny.

    Most of the flash I personally encounter other than video would be unpleasant on an iPhone even at infinite speed and zero power. HTML has abstraction layers built in that allow more changes to optimize for a touch browser. Not enough but more than Flash.

    The closest I see to a nefarious plot possibility is not Apple wanting to have you come to their store, but rather for the cool stuff you do to only work on an iPhone. I haven’t seen any evidence of them actively trying to do that, but, IMHO: Apple gets more benefit from fun stuff being iPhone only than they get from handling microtransactions.

  57. Live Motion anybody? Didn’t Adobe already do the JavaScript + SVG thing? Maybe they should take the dust covers off and blow some life back into that little gem.

  58. Also, re: Java, Apple has kept the iPhone feature set small. They have kept a lot of stuff out of it. Does anybody believe there is enough Java out there right now to threaten the app store? I encounter very, very little java nowadays. Java performance is only good because of highly optimized JITs. The iPhone would need one. Then you run into the same control and usability issues as Flash.

    Personally, I think the lack of Java is 80% “don’t care” and 20% “much of it will be an inferior UX”. But that’s a guess. Don’t assume that lack of flash and lack of Java must have the same reasons.

  59. If we can wipe the drool for a moment over the iPad, there are several other tablets/slates targeted for 2010 running android, linux or windows7- all of which will support Flash. A lack of Flash support by Apple is not the end of Flash.

  60. For all the Apple Cry Babies who are suddenly experts at HTML5 and Flash, here’s a SIMPLE HTML5 example that will certainly bring your precious little i(InsertGadgetName) to its knees even more than Flash. Check your CPU usage. Now you’re gonna long for the days you had Flash. You guys think HTML5 is the cure all, it’s YEARS behind flash and really just mimicking it in alot of ways. :D LOL


  61. As if the lack of flash would automatically bring a better semantic web…
    Most of the code will always be ugly and bloated, be it with flash, with html5 or with flying hamsters.

    I cant share the optimism with html 5 either. How long does html exist and how long did it take until we finally got the ? And is there really anybody out there who believes its possible to build an augmented reality-application or do bytearray-manipulation of soundfiles in HTML5 right now?

    If I have a problem I need a solution. And still there are too much problems that can only be solved by flash. Or unity. Or silverlight. Or…

  62. Apple is shunning Flash because they don’t like being beholden to technology they don’t control. My sense is that, when the time is right, they would love to do the same with HTML and CSS (moving all online interactions into Apple-controlled apps). In fact I wrote a big ol’ blog post about it:


    Apple shunning Flash is not an endorsement of HTML, it’s a warning shot.

  63. I think most of you don’t fully understand what flash can do and which limitations are legitimate for flash and which aren’t. If all the other mobile OS’s (android, WinMo, Symbian) will soon support Flash , AND the soon coming Release of Creative Suite 5 will have the ability to compile Flash apps into native iPhone/iPad apps, the economy of having one code base written for the Flash platform, with a proper MVC model and the ability to deploy it to every environment/platform that exists is a reality that HTML5 will NEVER enjoy.

  64. Agreed, but just tell me one thing:
    What does Flash have to do with user experience (UX)????
    UX is not a tool or a language or funny animations or anything. It’s how a user experiences your site/gadget/software/service/…
    It’s not tool-centric. Of course you can have a great site without any Flash/JavaScript.

  65. Flash is just plain annoying. It has become the lazy designer’s tool for animating what predominantly should be left unanimated. To build entire websites in flash is nothing more than flamboyant demonstrations of the lack of insight in what the web truly is, in the very core of it’s nature. I can’t think of a single good flash experience that have made my stay at any website more enjoyable, enlightening and/or entertaining. The exception is needless to say video content, but there are other technologies that’s fully capable of delivering that sort of content without hogging the CPU like a mad grizzly in heat. Just say no.

  66. working in Flash is how I make my work and living… so I have some feelings regarding this debate… but as some of you know… I switched to an HTML / CSS wordpress system for my portfolio well over a year ago.

    My question is this… My Kid.

    Zeldman your Kid.

    100% of the content my child interacts with on the web is Flash based. There’s been debate about Banners, Video, etc. I just wonder how people like Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS, etc. who produce content for children… will cope with trying to deliver the SAME experience with HTML 5 / Canvas.

    I totally understand why Flash on the iPhone is a bad Idea, Apple doesn’t want to provide support and take the blame for Flash crashing the iPhone. The general public can’t separate the difference between Flash and Apple… something crashes… it’s an Apple Phone… it’s Apple’s fault.

    I’m pretty amazed with its exclusion on the iPad… Jobs says in his keynote… “It just works…” and “it’s the best looking netbook on the market”… um no. It doesn’t just work and there’s no use in a fancy netbook, if I can’t view the WHOLE web.

    What I find amazing about this debate and the sides that people have taken is this… 1 company excludes Flash and pitchforks come out… hey it’s done wonders for YouTube, Vimeo, Nike, Disney, Flickr, Advertising, PORN hello, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. I feel bad that these people will have to re-try delivery of content just because of 1 company’s decision to exclude it in it’s products.

    If it aint broke… DON”T FIX IT.

    Standards will still progress… don’t worry
    Flash will still progress… where it’s appropriate… don’t worry.

    can we get back to LOVE now ?

  67. This post points out what’s so tragic here – Adobe SHOULD be able to see the change that’s coming, and they are very well-positioned to take advantage of it. They could make a Flash-like interface to create HTML5-compliant videos… BUT THEY JUST DON’T!

    What did Jobs say: That Adobe was complacent and lazy? Well, right-on. Wasn’t always that way with them, but times change. They used to be cutting-edge greatness, now they are corporate bloat living off past, faded glories.

  68. As a developer, I am drawn towards getting things done with the least amount of effort, for the widest possible audience. No matter how you slice it, Flash is an extra layer of overhead on top of the already-ubiquitous HTML/CSS/JS stack. I’m not saying Flash is dead, but to me it’s not first on the list of things to tackle in any web app project. It comes later, as a necessary evil, when the native browser capabilities fail and the pros of Flash outweigh the cons. That margin where Flash is required is growing smaller and smaller over time. It is hard to argue with producing a fully standards-based web app founded on HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript where functionally Flash is no longer necessary and possibly more difficult to get the same job done.

  69. I disagree with parts of this. If people didn’t want to tinker with their world, why has Apple sold 18 gazillion apps in the app store? Aren’t apps downloaded from the store nothing more than “plug-ins” for the iPhone?

    I agree that developers should not depend upon flash as the only UI. Nothing worse than going to a motherboard manufacturer and needing to wait for flash to pre-load the page . . .

    But I still think that people love to tinker.

  70. I find the “Apple is protecting their iTunes profit meme” really funny…

    As Apple’s financials shows, their iTunes profits are a drop in the bucket compared to their hardware sales. So I am not sure how much money there is to be made there, in lieu of losing customers because of lack of support for flash there.

    Secondly, regarding the App Store, have the commenters suddenly forgotten how they were groaning that the iPhone only supported Web Apps? If this was all about locking out alternative run-time platforms, what about the whole year Apple spent promoting AJAX as THE method to run applications on the iPhone OS?

    In the last few months, dailymotion, youtube, and vimeo have all created HTML5 versions of their websites. Who thinks this would have happened without the iPhone? Remember how Youtube agreed to start transcoding all their videos to H.264 on the same stage where the iPhone was introduced?

    The comparison between Javascript and Flash (both cause crashes…why keep one and not the other) is ridiculous. Apple can improve their JS implementations and avoid those crashes. The same cannot be said about Flash.

    Then you have Java. Its an albatross, that is in a mess with Sun not showing any leadership. Its hardly even used on the web anymore (I already have it disabled on firefox, since its an infection vector more than anything else, and cant remember the last time i missed something because of this). Finally, Apple’s disdain for Java is well demonstrated in the Mac itself, where they painfully take ages to update their JRE…

  71. I absolutely agree with this, and I’m also excited by the discussion about Flash that the iPad announcement has catalyzed.

    I don’t think that Flash is inherently bad, but as far as the Web user-experience is concerned I do think it falls under the attractive nuisance doctrine. Many restaurant sites, as the first commenter mentioned, are terrific examples of this. A lot of organizations, abetted by designers and developers, confused “more control over the experience” with “demonstrably more accomplished and more appealing design”. The end result was “wasting a lot of people’s time,” not to mention shutting out certain user groups.

    And now Apple is showing us what exerting control over the experience PLUS excellence in design looks like. It brings the information people want and need closer rather than throwing up barriers. And it’s very very shiny.

  72. @btorbo
    …To build entire websites in flash is nothing more than flamboyant demonstrations of the lack of insight in what the web truly is, in the very core of it’s nature…

    Are you not aware of SWFObject and SWFAddress? This allows full exposure of all site content and direct access to any view of any state in a flash site. Full semantic goodness–AND all the power to create a more meaningful experience with Flash. For example, I built this site for Getty Images in 2008. It’s fully in flash and it is the #1 Google Search result for Euro 2008 Imagery.

    When you get down to it. Flash is a more powerful set of tools than HTML5. In the hands of an intelligent and talented developer and/or designer it can be wonderful.

  73. @_mark Flash is not exactly the ideal platform for interactivity. On the contrary, I find that Flash has it’s own special way of being unnecessarily awkward to interact with. As for images, the idea that motion equals better design is to me no more than infantile. Sure, back in the nineties things were different; motion was the thing to bring to the party to enrich the user experience. Nowadays, most of us has grown out of internet’s infancy and evolved. Yes, we like eye-candy. Yes, we want beautiful websites, but we want that beauty to carry some sort of purpose. When one can use one’s artistic talents to actually help people find the information they are looking for, then one can call oneself a real designer. Imagery, motionless or animated, is just empty and limp until used with a clear thought and purpose. The use of motion just for motion’s sake bores the h*ll out of me. Then again, I’m on a fast track to 40 so I’m probably just a boring old */something/* designer…

    My apologies if any of this comes across as rude and/or uncomprehensible, English is not my mother tongue.

  74. “I think that’s an excuse at best. Lets not forget that JavaScript on most websites crashed Safari on the first iPhone… ”
    not enough memory.

    I never got that again in iphone 3GS. and yes I know what is a real javascript-heavy website

    “and how many apps in the app store ask you to restart your phone before installing, or have complaints from users saying the app crashes straight after launch?””

    very a few . mostly game who want to reclaim ALL the memory and not force the iphone themselves.

    is still again a memory problem, in iphone 3GS it’s mostly a moot point.

    and Yes, I played gameloft and sega and other 3D heavy game.

    General computing will never disappear. theses are the tools to create OTHERS tools.

    But people need an other computing. A computing which is a great TOOL to do things. A computing for ALL people

    you have not realized HOW MANY computer we can sell to users IF they are EFFICIENT and at last SIMPLE.

    and these people will ask more applications, better tools , amazing contents, great ideas and you will be there.

    the change will be good. We will loose nothing

    neither the web, neither linux, neither the mac, neither the personal computer, neither the love of tinkering.

    we will simply gain an other kind : the tool for daily and nice computing.

  75. Nicely said!

    Flash Animation rocks but I do agree that “Useless Eye Candy” will be going sour soon ushering the era of elegant functionality. Might as well get ahead of the game. Apple vs Adobe is not really good for devs and designers in general, so I hope they make peace with each other soon.

  76. Can we please stop with the And Flash (games especially) gets in the way of their app store. meme please? It’s a total strawman. The evidence suggests otherwise. Has everyone conveniently forgotten the initial demands to allow 3rd party apps onto the original iPhone platform and that Apple intended apps to be delivered as web apps? No, because it’s easier to assume that motives are more sinister. This discussion is becoming dull. The long and the sort of it is this; Flash is unstable and insecure. Flash has a history of poor performance on the Mac platform that Adobe have yet to addressed. Flash is processor intensive and as a result draws a disproportionate amount of power. Flash is closed proprietary runtime that is used predominately as a media delivery mechanism. Things change people, time to move on…

  77. So many nutty opinions here. Why all this flash hating? I can’t believe that more people aren’t concerned about the app store content filtering that goes on. Do you really want one company filtering your applications? Too bad if you come up with something that they might also have in the works. Your app and all your energy will be wasted.
    This isn’t the end of flash but merely the beginning of an expensive lesson for Apple. When you have the choice of ten tablets, nine that can run all the technologies out there, and one that is restricted to the whims of its power hungry makers, which one would you choose?
    I like Apple, but I like my freedom more.

  78. As much as I love my MacBook Pro and my Iphone, It is impossible for me to deny at least the possibility that lack of support for Flash in the Iphone and Ipad is Apple’s attempt to control how users consume media on their devices.

    If Apple is concerned with pushing HTML5 or the speed and “buggyness” of Flash, they would get rid of Flash support in Safari all together. After all, implementation and use of HTML5 for media consumption at this point would be much better served on more powerful desktop machines… And the desktop is still where most people browse the web. The difference is, on Mac products, apple doesn’t have control of what browsers people use so to be competitive in this space, have to allow Flash support.

    The fact that Apple reportedly doesn’t make much revenue from the App store or iTunes is inconsequential to this argument. The bottom line is that they are making a profit (regardless of how much) and the popularity and success of iTunes and the App Store is crucial to maintaining their brand and selling products which do make them a lot of money.

    Apple is a business. They don’t love us… They want us to buy and use their products as much as possible. Does anyone think that if it was “iFlash” or “Apple Flash” exactly how it exists today, it wouldn’t be supported by their mobile devices because that’s what people are implying through a lot of these comments.

  79. @Hanan Cohen:

    Actually, your claim (of reasons for Apple disallowing Java on iPhone OS) is disingenuous at best, knowingly false at worst. On their mobile platform they obviously went to great lengths to prevent infusion of potentially harmful or sloppily-written code. The same restriction applies to ANY third-party code that is to be interpreted at runtime. The wellbeing and reputation of iPhone, and now iPad, depends on them JUST WORKING. Every time. So the fewer vectors there are open for potential malicious attack the more secure the system.

  80. @Tony Jacobson I really can’t see your point. The “site” you are referring to is basically just one page on which, when you click on anything, a new window opens up with a new page (which is by no means “flash-based”) in it. I can’t even get to the “website terms” without opening another window. How’s that for “user friendliness”? Furthermore, you can’t see the URL (nor alt and/or title text) to any secondary page when hovering over links and if you want to share or bookmark anything, you have to go to that specific page to get the address/content (which is more than you normally can do with flash based websites, mind you). If I would have had any trouble reading the small print at the bottom of the page it would have been my tough luck because all text is rendered in flash without any means to resize it to something my tired old eyes could make any sense of. Again, user hostile, but I guess no people over 50 is in that target group – after all, soccer is enjoyed exclusively by younger people, right? Granted it’s a beautiful photo of some green grass on there, but it’s basically a waste of my time to make me load that page in order to keep me from getting to what I really seek (in this case photos of soccer players) in the first place. Brilliant example of time and bandwidth wasting filler page that contributes nothing of real value past the eye candy factor. What’s up next – praise for the glorious splash page?

    I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced.

  81. @Tony Jacobson
    …Are you not aware of SWFObject and SWFAddress? This allows full exposure of all site content and direct access to any view of any state in a flash site. Full semantic goodness–AND all the power to create a more meaningful experience with Flash. For example, I built this site for Getty Images in 2008. It’s fully in flash and it is the #1 Google Search result for Euro 2008 Imagery….

    Ok, I went to this supposedly wonderful web site, and it immediately failed the first two tests I tried:
    1. You cannot navigate using the browser back-forward buttons; you have to use the navigation buttons inside the view.
    2. You cannot search for any text, so if I e.g. want to find where Germany is listed, I cannot do this except by reading the text.

    The page does look nice, but like all sites done using Flash it absolutely sucks when it comes to usability. You have to relearn the navigation for something as simple as going back a page using the specific way this site has implemented it (i.e. there is no standard way to do it, it is completely up to the Flash developer how this is presented), and finding information on the page is not possible.

    And of course, you cannot copy any text from the page, which is also par for the course for Flash.

  82. Just wanted to add one thing about the Flash site: Simply moving my mouse over the different game schedules makes Flash consume 120% CPU (in Snow Leopard you can see exactly what Flas consumes since it is running in its own process). Granted, my computer is not the newest (Core2Duo 1.8 GHz) but the only thing happening is that some pictures are exchanged for others when my mouse passes over them.

    So yes, Flash on Mac is extraordinarily badly implemented, and I fully understand Apple not feeling very kind towards Adobe.

  83. The browser started without plugins, and as the computer & industry demands for impressive content grew, plugins came around. The same will happen with mobile devices. As they grow, and the industry tires of HTML5 and it’s stagnation, plugins will be implemented, and the cycle shall continue.

  84. Ok well I just want someone to come up with something that is as fun to use as Flash but still meets all your elitist needs.

  85. This split between using a computing device like a pad going forward, or having a full-fledged computer, reminds me a lot of gaming and consoles.

    There was a lot of wailing by many (mostly geeks, like now) that consoles were inferior and that PC gaming would always be king. Now, however, the game industry on consoles dwarfs that on PCs anymore. PC gaming didn’t die though and lives alongside consoles, with many games on both.

    I used to be a pretty big gaming geek, always getting the latest video cards, upgrading my box, tweaking settings, etc. Now I’m much happier being able to fire up my 360, ps3 or wii in the comfort of my living room on a big screen TV with a high-end surround setup vs using my PC. I’ve made it past the point where I want to spend much time tweaking settings or patching/fixing things all the time at home. I get enough of that at work being a sysadmin. This is why I like Apple products at home, consoles for games, and use a Tivo instead of setting up a mythtv machine (even though mythtv can do far more).

  86. I’m all for emphasizing progressive enhancement, but trying to pretend that Apple has any other motive than control for excluding Flash is bogus.

    I’d say that if designers adopt a more structured approach to content it will be a side effect of the iPad, not the focus of it. The focus is to control how and when people get their content by placing it in a restrictive space.

    Any designer that professes to care about open and accessible content should be looking at Apple right now with a wary eye.

  87. @James Willamson Speaking of which [control], the one to look at with wary eyes right now isn’t situated in Cupertino – it’s a mightier beast and it rhymes with “bugle”…

  88. The Flash IDE can already export native Mac apps for Mac, native Windows apps for Windows, and native iPhone apps for iPhone. It should export native Web apps for the Web in HTML5. Someone already created a FlashPlayer in JavaScript, that computation should take place in the Flash IDE.

    Adobe can also create targets for Blackberry and other mobiles. There is a bright future for Flash IDE if Adobe lets go of FlashPlayer.

  89. Or, could it be that the promotional video we saw was showing us a future version of the New York Times (not implemented yet) that uses the HTML5 video element? Obviously, that’s where Apple is hoping everyone goes, as I certainly don’t see them ever allowing Flash to run in their browser…

  90. http://www.sumopaint.com/

    these are all sites showcasing Rich Internet Applications that would not be possible without Adobe Flash. Why would anyone or any company want to stop such a wonderful programming language from really pushing the envelope in Web Technology? I do not understand this.

    Do we really want to make the Web into a sort of ‘Retard Web’ for lack of a better term by terminating the platform? Especially when no other platform can do such amazing things?

  91. And the bulk of humanity doesn’t care whether its video is delivered through a statically linked video library or a dynamically linked plugin. If plugins work — if they are stable and the installation is easy — they are here to stay. But that’s always been the case, not just for plugins but for applications of any kind.

  92. Cool! So when I can develop my RIAs in HTML5/css/javascript instead on actionscript or choose-your-3rd-party-here; when solid event models and MVC architectures are available to me; when there’s actually one of the available 15 similar libraries which do the same thing, only slightly different, actually does what it proposes, and well, _and_ with less cpu usage than what I have; when that choice Just Works across every user agent; when deep linking (which _is_ available in my RIAs, _where_ _applicable_) within said js environment compares; and when my SDLC TTM also compares, I’ll get onboard with canvas!

    Until then, the > 100 companies that use my RIAs will, ahem, continue to use the flash runtime.

    No, I’m not talking about flash ads, btorbo. As much as I also want them to die, replacements will be found if flash goes south. I’m talking about specialised, targeted RIAs which are impossible in current html/js/css. Please discriminate between annoying flash specticles/ads and a rich RIA with a rich ROI.

  93. Smart article, we need simplicity, we need to remove, not to add. Flash is on the way out, the future is not in that direction.

  94. There is a reason the best selling cars are Camrys and not British sports cars.

    And the reason, sadly, is that Britain no longer makes sports cars. In fact it doesn’t make any cars of its own – even Rolls Royce is German! Perhaps that’s your point.

  95. Why would anyone or any company want to stop such a wonderful programming language from really pushing the envelope in Web Technology? I do not understand this.

    No person or company is preventing Flash from being used on the web. I doubt no person or company could ever unilaterally decide to prevent things from being used. Perhaps Adobe are the only company that could unilaterally remove Flash from the Web, since they do own it and it’s associated intellectual property, they could pull it and get their lawyers to deal with the fallout.

    Do we really want to make the Web into a sort of ‘Retard Web’ for lack of a better term by terminating the platform? Especially when no other platform can do such amazing things?

    The iPad doesn’t define what is permissible on the web. It just defines what is permissible on the iPad. There are many many more devices that are connected to the web that have even stricter limitations, yet they don’t bar people from using whatever they like to build websites. You can continue building Flash sites to your hearts content – if that is what’s important to you. No-one will interfere with that. You already chose to ignore people who currently don’t use Flash, so there’s nothing new there.

    The web is a varied collection of resources. Some user-agents support some types of resources, but all user-agents supporting all types of resources is just an illusion.

  96. ‘The iPad doesn’t define what is permissible on the web. It just defines what is permissible on the iPad.’

    I find it disturbing that Apple would dictate this from it’s OS and not allow the user to make this decision. That is where my problem is. There is something inherently wrong with that and it grinds at the very core of my belief system.

  97. If anyone is doubtful whether HTML5 can deliver video as well as Flash.
    Take a look at this.

    It plays full-screen…Is scrubs to unloaded sections…its playing on hardware…
    And scales to fullscreen without turning your computer into a hairdryer.
    If I wanted to show people some video on a website, I would be very happy to have them watch it using this technology.

    Flash is a fine intermediate technology – but it was never designed for mobile devices.

    Those people interested in delivering content, will always find ways to reach their customers. If they can’t be bothered to adapt, then I am sure that message will reach those customers. Just as it did when some sites failed to support Firefox.


  98. There’s a level of hate in many of the posts in this discussion that borders on bigotry so I felt I had to jump in and sing of my love for Flash!
    The web’s not only about information but also entertainment (and the two aren’t mutually exclusive!), something many of the posters here seem to ignore or perhaps resent. There’s plenty of room for all tastes. I for one seek sites that surprise, amuse, intrigue and challenge and a steady stream of work, as well as any webdesign awards site or ceremony, suggests to me that I’m not the only one.
    It was a love of interactivity itself that got me into the web back in 97. I was concentrating on HTML and JS when I saw Gabocorp.com and it simply leapt out of a sea of gray tiled backgrounds, animated GIFs and 1px-bordered tables. Then came Flash 4 with scripting and yugop.com showed what could be done with some imagination and a limited toolset. This was what I wanted to do and I’ve been designing and developing with Flash ever since and watched it develop into a powerful technology capable of producing great things. Sure, in the wrong hands or in the wrong place it can produce some awful crap (I regularly turn away or redirect work because I don’t think it’s is the right solution) but so can HTML, JavaScript and, as I’m sure we’ll see, HTML5.
    I simply don’t understand this hatred of the tool because you don’t like what is produced with it. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it bad. I don’t like the work of Fragonard but I don’t think anyone who does is wrong, I won’t try to stop them or persuade them otherwise, and I certainly don’t hate oil-paint and canvas because of him.
    Many of my clients don’t even realize that I use Flash when they contact me. They just want something that works, looks and ‘feels’ good and care no more about the technology than they do about how the TV works whilst watching it. Something the self-regarding world of internet discussions seems to forget sometimes.

  99. @Sherif:

    1. Of course. Just listen to the playing event, and do stuff from there.

    2. Yes.

    3. You can do some pretty cool stuff with CANVAS and VIDEO already. It’s not as interactive as Flash, but for video on the web: it’s good enough.

  100. Why not let people install Flash, or Google Voice, or other programs that just might happen to compete with the apps/iTunes/book stores? Most Apple users tell me that they design great hardware and software with a well-thought-out user experience, so surely the majority would stick with Apple’s products anyway.

    It reminds me of countries who claim to be much better than democracies at the same time that they’re locking down their borders to keep their own people from leaving.

  101. HTML is just as hacked together. And standards? Can someone honestly tell HTML is a standard. HTML 5? What I think you dream of if beautifully written code and not necessarily a standard. Because you so called standard needs allot of hacks out the box. To you simplicity and elegance is beauty and somehow is equated with standards. Yes we all need a lesson from apple in terms of how we design and deliver products to consumers but don’t ride the apple train at the expense of flash when there is really nothing to base it on.

  102. The argument doesn’t make sense, except if you subscribe to an ideological “proprietary software is evil” point of view.

    The case for Flash is EVEN STRONGER on the iPad than it is on netbooks — at least netbooks/laptops (with their physical keyboard and touch pads) can be adapted for use by visually impaired users; the touch-only iPod is a non-starter when it comes to accessibility. And that pretty much blows the major argument against Flash out the water.

    The argument that Adobe is at fault for Flash’s shortcomings on the Mac is hotley disputed (more thoughts on this at my own blog) — and besides, this fails to explain why other platforms such as Silverlight and JavaFX are also missing!

    The inconvenient truth is Apple makes a large amount of profit from the app store, and allowing rival software platforms onto the iPad, particularly ones that would allow software to be accessed for free, does not make sense. This is nothing to do with Apple taking a puritanical stance against close source (if they are so in love with open standards, why aren’t they using something like Android?) and everything to do with Apple protecting its revenue stream by forcing users through its own services.

    Fair enough, they have a right to do that if they want (although Microsoft was slammed with an anti-trust suit for less), but I just wish there was a bit less delusion in the blogosphere about Apple’s true motivations.

  103. A win for web standards, I think not. Well, not if the flash site is built correctly with alt content.

    Here is an example of a flash site with a fully functional html site if flash isnt detected. http://2kgames.com Give it a go. Disable flash in FF or your fav browser and refresh.

    I’d love to hear what Zeldmen thinks of this or the rest of you.

  104. oh btw,

    flash isn’t just a design tool,

    it’s a serious business/marketing tool in terms of data visualizations with many fortune 500 clients utilizing it :


  105. The case for Flash is EVEN STRONGER on the iPad than it is on netbooks — at least netbooks/laptops (with their physical keyboard and touch pads) can be adapted for use by visually impaired users; the touch-only iPod is a non-starter when it comes to accessibility. And that pretty much blows the major argument against Flash out the water.

    Aahh, the old “but blind people can’t…” splutter. Blind people can’t use a touch screen you say? Perhaps you’d better mention that to the blind people who are actively using the iPhone’s touchscreen. . Don’t believe me? Try Marco Zehe’s review:


    I believe TV Raman has hacked up interesting approaches to using the touch screen on Google’s Android, using the entire screen as a sort of gesture interface.

    My friend and work colleague, Artur Ortega, uses an iPhone. Wonderful to see him use it, and very interesting in how he’s got it set up.

    Marco Zehe, TV Raman, Artur Ortega – three blind people successfully using an iPhone and it’s ‘non-starter’ touch screen. Amazing what people can do despite the assurance from others that they just can’t. Touch screens are not the impenetratable barrier you think they are. Welcome to the world of gestural interfaces, one that’s naturally amenable to a non-visual medium.

  106. For the record, I have no problem with an open web standard video streaming alternative to adobe flash. It will happen (not soon) but it will happen.

    But I do have a problem with all the unfounded flash bashing that’s going around the web where suddenly everyone’s an expert because Steve Jobs wants to wrongly dictate what content you view on the Web. People should be standing up against this in defiance and rather dictate whether or not they want something THEMSELVES. What happened to freedom of information? Isn’t that kind of what the web is all about? Why accept drinking the web through this tiny little apple straw when you could have more (or at least choose yourself)?

  107. Aahh, the old “but blind people can’t…” splutter. Blind people can’t use a touch screen you say?

    No, I didn’t actually say they couldn’t use an iPhone — but thank you for leaping in with your pre-prepared knee-jerk apologetics anyway. ;)

    Of all the types of devices out there, those that rely on virtual input rather than physical input are the least accessible. I’m well aware that some sight impaired people have persevered with touch screen devices and found ways around their shortcomings, but it is just delusional to suggest such devices offer the same level of accessibility as those with tangible real-world input devices. Perhaps in the future haptic feedback on screens will make touch-centric devices more accessible, I certainly hope so, but until then they will always require a considerably steeper learning curve to master and present more barriers to entry for any blind person.

    Fact is, on a scale of accessibility the iPad ranks way down at the bottom compared to netbooks and laptops. This makes the accessibility argument for excluding Flash somewhat hollow.

    Bottom line: Apple doesn’t want any distractions from its app store revenue stream. You can try to put a noble gloss on their decision, but it all comes down to cold hard cash and profit & loss (specifically your cold hard cash and their profit & loss! :)

    Apple are a business — this is a business decision.

  108. I haven’t read through all the comments, but I disagree on certain points regarding plugin technology on the web. I agree that semantic markup is important, and that standards are a good thing. But I also believe that there comes a point where innovating using existing standards stops, and plugin tech begins. Does HTML 5 look extremely promising? yes. However, the standards will be pushed to their limits rather quickly, and the only way around it will be to develop a plugin until the standards catch up. There will always be plugin technology no matter what the standards are.

  109. I like how Maczealots make ideologies about Apple’s business decisions. Standards… my ass.

  110. I propose the following solution:
    Rather than just show the Blue Brick of Omission, use something like SWFObject to craft alternative content for search engines and people with real usability problems.


    For the iphone/ipad crowd, add a small form for them to mail the link to themselves so they can return to it when they are on a real computer and view the content as it was intended.

  111. “Apple is trying to control the way people consume content…”

    Actually it’s the other way around. Apple is attempting to provide a more consistent user experience. Apple can fix and improve JS (along with other developers) when issues arise. They are going with a format that might not be supported 100% cross platforms but allows millions of developers to work on getting it there verses a division of Adobe guys. With Adobe they have to wait for Adobe to issue a fix via a plugin update. This then requires a browser update where on the iPhone and iPad would require an OS update. I too doubt that the iPad will kill off Flash forever but I have no doubt that it will force Adobe to rethink their tools for the future.

  112. “This lack of extensibility may not please the Slashdot crowd but it’s the future of computing and browsing.”

    To quote Leonard Cohen, I have seen the future and it is murder.

  113. And the reason, sadly, is that Britain no longer makes sports cars.

    British sports car companies:
    Lister (used to do road cars but now only does track cars)
    Morgan Motor Co.

    Foreign owned but designed and built in Britain:
    Aston Martin (partially British owned)

  114. Bottom line: Apple doesn’t want any distractions from its app store revenue stream. You can try to put a noble gloss on their decision, but it all comes down to cold hard cash and profit & loss (specifically your cold hard cash and their profit & loss! :)

    As others have already said, app store revenues are minor compared to revenues from iPhone anmd Mac sales:

    Graph is at the bottom of the page.

  115. Joshua Davis: my three year old daughter plays the same Flash games on the iMac and she loved them, BUT she also loves many of the free or amazingly cheap games on my iPhone. When we get an iPad, I’m sure she’ll love the amazingly new iPad apps that are being created now and I’ll have to worry less about her whining when her Flash games crash.

    I think Miguelito is right on when thinking of the iPad is a console, not a computer the way we know it. Could Xbox 360 support Flash games? Sure, but why would they? There will be plenty of apps available and for free like Netflix and Hulu.

  116. I love my i-phone, but the I-pad may very well be tomorrow’s TIVO.

    Who knows?

    After all, it is a sleek new device…without any groundbreaking features!

  117. To Brian Knight:

    Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the Toyota “appliances” are “toast”. VWs are the most popular cars in the world: “Drivers wanted.”


  118. I’d wager good money that if Apple does result in Flash’s crash and burn, we can expect some sweet legal proceedings by Adobe accusing Apple of monopolizing the content market. Then, that turns into attacks on the XBox Live Arcade, and PSN for not letting other companies sell to consumers using the equipment they designed. That is all it boils down to here. If Apple wants to shoot themselves in the foot by not even offering an option (deactivated by default) to allow flash, that’s their prerogative. It would be interesting to see any other internet powerhouse (I’m looking at you Facebook) take a stand by implementing flash-only content to reward the idea of letting users view the internet how they want to, and not just how you’d like them to.

  119. Can HTML5 +JS equal the advanced capabilities of online apps like aviary, splashup, soundation, hobnox audiotool? Not even close.
    There will always be innovators and talented developers that want to push the boundaries of what can be done on the web, and public appetite to consume their output, so there will always be a place for plugins that supply extra functionality beyond the glacial pace of the web standards catch-up process .

    Anyway, The iPad?

    It’s the iCant

    No USB, no camera, phone, no flash, no freedom, a 90’s-esque walled garden. It does however come with a free app – a torch. It’s for all the mac yes-men, so they can still see while their heads are stuffed up Steve Jobs **** ;-)

  120. So… web designers have to build a crappy, boring, bland version of every website for people who lack really basic web enable tools like Flash before they can make something creative and worthwhile?

    Designing for the least common denominator is the reason why every Hollywood Movie sucks – and I don’t see any reason why this mentality should be allowed to ruin the next generation of media also.

  121. Thanks for calling some attention to the fact that the overblown outpouring of Flash hate is really a disparaging of the whole plug-in system. Do people really want to give up plug-ins?

  122. So… web designers have to build a crappy, boring, bland version of every website for people who lack really basic web enable tools like Flash before they can make something creative and worthwhile?


  123. @grasshopper

    Your system has a bug (bottom line). If it crashed on everyone or even 20%, all these flash RIA’s wouldn’t even exist. Think about it.

    I HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED FLASH CRASH ON A MAJOR (Reputable) SITE / RIA (Even with several tabs opened).

    I wonder how many of these mac users who experience these ‘crashes’ have a bug in their system or possibly a corrupt / outdated flash installation?

    I also wonder, what site(s) they are visiting and how many tabs/windows they have opened?

    The only time I ever experience crashing is on a site that is running a ‘questionable’ script via flash. In which, I’m glad flash stops running!

    btw for all those who think HTML5 is going to be any better than flash or some kind of ‘magic cure all’, think again..

    There’s absolutely no reason to assume that HTML5 will be faster or more stable than Flash.

    You can write bad code in any development environment. Just wait and see.


  124. Going down the list of comments, the particular one that i feel the need to respond to is one by @Mitchell made Feb.1(yesterday) at 3:07pm:

    The argument that Apple doesn’t allow Flash is because the want to sell apps doesn’t hold much water. Those who think this is the case haven’t really done the math to see that the app store isn’t a cash cow at all.

    That made me think, Hey, that’s total bogus. But thanks to Mitchell, I did doubt my certainty enough to try and read up on the matter, and one great opinion piece on the matter is over here at TechCrunch. Clearly, the App Store moves iPhone units, and soon iPad units. If Apple didn’t care about that they’d be stupid.

    On the other hand, to address Mr.Zeldman’s(as a recent high school graduate i’d feel unsure addressing you as Jeffrey:D) article directly, it is well written, but it does not jive with my view of the computing world.Disclaimer: I am not illiterate computer-wise. In fact, my dad is an IT professional, so i’m generally skilled. Yet by no means have i taken apart my computer to modify it. Still I am inclined to want my freedom to tinker, regardless of whether I’ll utilize that right or not. I am a curious guy, and I daresay there are plenty of my kind, and to speak for myself, I want my computing experience to be tailored to me. I play competitive tennis, love singing vocal music of any kind, would love to do charity, and would like to learn to dance like Michael Jackson. My point being, I’m not a total geek. I suggest a truce between, closed and super-easy interaction experiences, and modular and confusing interaction experiences. How about the corporate giants offer closed systems that appeal to folks who don’t want to tinker, and small businesses can take up the niche demands of us tinkerers.

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