Flash: A thought for the day

Steve Jobs said Flash is bad, so it must be true. I’ll try to remember that when I’m looking at all those Flash-enabled websites on my little netbook, watching my battery not draining away at all.

The claim that Steve Jobs is doing all this out of the goodness of his heart and isn’t going to make a single cent out of pushing for an end to Flash is a naive one, at best. Apple’s Safari (which isn’t without faults of its own) also happens to be one of the few browsers out there with a 100% Acid 3 test result. It’s fully HTML 5 compliant, in as much as anything can be fully compliant in an unproven, un-stress-tested and not fully defined technology. In comparison, Internet Explorer hovers around the 20% mark, though they’re aiming to get in the mid- 50s sometime soon!

I just tested Firefox and scored a reasonable 92% – good, but it’s still a fail. You can test your own browser, right here.

Yes, Flash is clunky, but so is the web itself, and it works. I applaud Apple wanting to push HTML 5 to the fore but given that Internet Explorer’s HTML 5 capabilities are…. well, lacking it’s a foolish web developer who would explicitly code for the one platform and not the other. Steve Jobs’ letter is a lesson in smoke and mirrors designed to sow doubt among the developer community, nothing more. One day, Flash will die a death and be replaced with something better, but we’re a long way from that point just yet. Apple is trying to boost their own importance in the browser market on the back of their latest mobile toy. Don’t be fooled! Demand a proper browser for your touch tablet, or take your wallet elsewhere!

The real question is: would you create a site which works for over 95% (IE, Firefox, Chrome and Opera) of the market share, but not on the other 5% (Safari), or vice versa?

Is that a question which really needs asking?

12 Comments on “Flash: A thought for the day”

  1. Considering the subject matter I’m surprised people didn’t take more notice of this:

    “Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.”

    Apple makes *a lot* of money from their app store. Flash games on the web mean no % going to Apple.

      1. Free games and ad supported games also mean no % going to Apple. Look at their balance sheets, app store is not a major cash cow for them. I don’t agree with the system 100%, there are numerous flaws which could be fixed, but I believe overall the system works. I am also happy that there is an alternative in the Android for people who don’t like the system.

  2. I am not personally a fan of Flash. I found developing Flash sites to be a pain in the butt, but it does server a purpose (but I hope HTML 5, CSS 3 and the varying languages (PHP, JavaScript etc…) will kill it off (though it won’t).

    In Acid 3 I have tested FF and Opera. Both did well, but not 100%. Though Safari seems to be 100% compliant according to Acid, I am just not a fan of it. I much prefer Opera and FF

  3. when titans battle, who wins? a titan. why apple wants to kill flash is pretty clear, and mirrors why adobe would see every website a flash site, if it could.

    personally, i’ve always hated flash. its the succubus of the web. certainly useful for some fun things, but mostly used to seduce unsuspecting web designers away from principles of device agnosticism and usability. killing the demon is still a good thing, even if you’re just doing it for the xp and gold.

    1. Lol! :D The choice remains though – do you make a site that’s browser agnostic, or alienate 55% of your potential userbase? Flash might be a pain in the neck, but at least it didn’t care what platform it was running on.

      1. Flash is *not* browser agnostic, as this very discussion exemplifies. It depends on Adobe A) being able to provide a port for your platform of choice, & B) wanting to provide a port for you platform of choice. How well does Flash work on Haiku’s native browser, for example? How about if you run Linux on MIPS or PowerPC?

  4. No where is Steve Jobs forcing anyone to abandon Flash. If someone has a deep, burning desire to keep on with it, that is fine. He merely outlined the reasons he is not using it on the iThings. But you see, owners of iThings happen to be a very valuable audience, many marketers consider them amongst the most valuable. If one cares about that audience, then one plays by the rules.

    The assertion that Steve Jobs stands to make a fortune off of the world moving to HTML 5 is just as naive. It’s a strategy that can easily backfire because the stage is open for everyone at that point. Chrome already has a larger market share then Safari last time I checked, and its support is just about as good. As you pointed out, Firefox is catching up fast. Few people are going to run out and download Safari for Windows (which I’d never recommend) or buy a Mac just for HTML 5 compliance, and Apple does not have a monopoly on the tools to create HTML 5 (in fact, Apple has very few such tools, and Adobe has a lot of tools which do).

    Firefox and Chrome both do well enough on the HTML tests. I hear IE is getting better. But Flash is no silver bullet, I tried a bunch of Flash sites on both my Linux and OpenSolaris desktops at work, using Firefox on both and Chrome on Linux. More often then not, I got crashed browsers or hung processes.

    It should be noted Adobe has been crying and whining about this Flash thing since the iPhone was announced in 2007. Tell me one smartphone released since then which provides the full Flash experience that people seem to be so excited about. All we got is a promise that Android 2.2 will have it — something they started promising back in Android 1.5 or so.

    1. Like I said, I’m happy to agree to disagree with you on this one :D Flash is flawed, but it’s too intrinsic a part of the web to be able to ignore right now, especially on a platform which claims to deliver a complete browsing experience.

      If a new version of Firefox was launched tomorrow but, uhhh, sorry guys, Flash doesn’t work on it – would you use it? I certainly wouldn’t. I’d wait until it’s fixed.

      Right now, the iPad is broken, and all that Apple are trying to do is pitch that brokenness as a feature. Me, I’m not fooled one bit.

  5. This is nothing new. Apple came under fire for eliminating the floppy disk drive with the original iMac. “But so many people are still using them!” the critics complained. And they replaced their standard input ports with an uncommon standard called “USB.” Several years ago, Apple eliminated the modem port from their computers. And now people are criticizing their abandonment of Flash.

    If Apple’s guilty of one thing, it’s of having the chutzpah to get rid of a dying technology in favor of open standards and better technology. PC technology tends to transition very slowly (many PCs still have PS/2 and VGA ports, despite better technology being around for years) and the only way technology dies is if companies take the leap to abandon it for better stuff. Apple’s doing just that and I think that it improves computing as a whole.

    To answer your question, I’d rather create a site the right way than the wrong way. Doing so guarantees that my site will still be right when the other 95% of the market gets their act together, as opposed to suddenly having problems because I coded it the wrong way to make it look right on really bad browsers. It just slows down progress when you are unwilling to take the initiative with better technologies.

    1. I’d rather create a site which doesn’t alienate 95% of my market audience. To do otherwise is crazy. If that means favouring Flash over HTML 5 right now, then so be it.

      When Apple dropped the Floppy there were new technologies available to replace it. Yes, it was a bold move, but one which recognised the changing way computers were being used. The sneakernet was dead. Flash is far from dead, and the technologies which could replace it are far from proven.

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