No matter what Apple says, you can't get a rich web experience without Flash

No matter what Apple says, you can't get a rich web experience without Flash

Summary: Over the weekend I've come across a lot of chatter about Adobe's Flash multimedia platform. Do we need it? Is it relevant? I got news for you - for now, you're stuck with it.

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Over the weekend I've come across a lot of chatter about Adobe's Flash multimedia platform. Do we need it? Is it relevant?

I got news for you - for now, you're stuck with it.

I think that what's prompted this debate is the unveiling of Apple's new iPad. Why? Because just like the iPhone and the iPod touch, the iPad doesn't support the Flash platform. This raises several questions, such as, "Why doesn't the iPad support Flash?", "Can a device that doesn't support Flash deliver a rich web experience?" and "Is Flash still relevant?"

Let's take a closer look at some of these questions.

Why doesn't the iPad support Flash?

We don't know. There are two possibilities. One is that just like how Apple got rid of the floppy drive on Macs before almost anyone else did, Apple is again being innovative, trimming away unnecessary features. The other is that Apple, for whatever reason, can't get Adobe to properly support its iPhone platform.

Which is most likely? Despite Apple's history of trimming away the fat, I find it hard to believe that Apple is ready to cut Flash adrift just yet. Some speculate that Apple doesn't want Flash on the iPhone OS because it's a security risk. Maybe, but to be honest, I don't think this is likely.

Whatever the reason, this lack of Flash support has left Steve Jobs having to resort to smoke and mirrors sleight of hand to convince us that a web without Flash is still a rich web experience.

Which leads us nicely to the next question ...

Can a device that doesn't support Flash deliver a rich web experience?

Here's the way I see it. The screen on the iPhone is pretty small, so small that most things that we use Flash for (games, eye candy) wouldn't work scaled down to that size. This means that there's little pressure on Apple from, say, Facebook users wanting to be able to play Fame Town or Happy Aquarium while on the move.

But what happens when users are faced with a nice, big 9.7 inch screen? The kind of screen that looks idea for playing all those Flash games on? Looking at the iPad, I'd instinctively expect it to work like a regular browser. Why not? Be giving the iPhone OS the same rendering engine that's present in the Safari web browser, Apple's made mobile web browsing look and feel like desktop web browsing ... the noticeable exception being Flash.

I still believe that a web browsing experience that doesn't include Flash isn't a rich web experience. What remains to be seen is how folks who buy the iPad will feel about web - Flash, and who will they blame for this glaring omission.

[poll id="504"]

Is Flash still relevant?

Now this is the $64,000 question. I think that it depends on what kind of web user you are, but I think it's safe to say that for the majority of users, Flash is a key part of the web. Sure, there are upsides to not having Flash (greater security, fewer updates, no annoying Flash-based ads ... ), but there are a lot of downsides, such as no games, streaming video, interactivity.

Sure, there are technologies that could replace Flash, such as HTML 5, but for now, we're stuck with Flash, and to a lesser extent, Microsoft's competing technology Silverlight. These technologies are key to delivering content over the web. Of course, Apple wants you to buy content through iTunes rather than get it through other sources, but with that big screen and a browser built right into the device, not having Flash support is is going to be big surprise for quite a few users.

What are your thoughts on Flash?

Topics: iPad, Apple, Browser, iPhone, Mobility, Software Development

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71 comments
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  • Nope - None here

    Flashblock is the very first add-on that I install.
    AdBlock plus is the second.
    drf999
    • HTML5 is all hype

      It's OK for simple web pages w/ some multimedia in there. It's a joke as a serious APP platform, and Google knows it too yet they keep misleading people w/ this hype.

      Flash is not good as a platform either.
      LBiege
    • Agreed

      But I use NoScript to block flash. Then I simply re-enable the flash on specific areas that need it (i.e. the rare youtube vid).

      I have to have Flash, but I don't have to have it running all the time. :-p

      Not having Flash seems more petulant then anything. I hear through the grapevine, that Adobe CS3 works better on windows now than the Mac. I know that certain Apple updates prior to 10.5 broke part of the suite, and last I heard, neither company had fixed the problem. There also seem to be some other issues related to Adobe products on the Mac.

      Then DaringFireball commented that supposedly Apple had more Safari crash reports from Flash then any other tech. (That could be a Safari problem though).

      Still it seems that the two companies are warring and the Mac customer is getting caught in the middle.
      mtgarden
  • zdnet & flash

    what is it with everyone here on zdnet fighting tooth and
    nails for adobe's proprietary flash technology? instead of
    supporting apple's push for a web based solely on open
    standards (ajax, html 5). flash is a mess, a bug ridden,
    resource hog, security nightmare of ancient technology.

    apple doesn't want flash because they want full control over
    their own products. and you get that only with open,
    standard based, formats, not depending on other companies'
    proprietary technology.
    bannedfromzdnetagain
    • Isn't this last statement a contradiction?

      [pre]apple doesn't want flash because they want full control over
      their own products. and you get that only with open,
      standard based, formats, not depending on other companies'
      proprietary technology[/pre]

      I would think Apple IS his own propietary technology: its format for the iTunes/iPod - and now for eBooks, which will be different from the ones used by Amazon, Barnes&Nobles, Sony.
      Roque Mocan
      • format

        apple always uses standard formats, sometimes they impose drm on top
        of it when content owners demand it. apple will use the open ePub
        format, instead of proprietary formats used by amazon or sony. we don't
        know more yet.
        bannedfromzdnetagain
      • It's All Relative . . .

        In Apples' eyes, its only proprietary when its not YOURS!
        TAPhilo
  • Thank God there's Flashblock

    Flash is a pain, I love the Flashblock plugin.
    The Mentalist
    • for once I agree with you (nt)

      nt
      SystemVoid
    • .0000000000001% of the population

      agrees !

      LULZORS !
      pcguy777
  • RE: No matter what Apple says, you can't get a rich web experience without Flash

    I think Apple doesn't allow Adobe Flash because they want to have total control over any application development for their devices. Flash and Silverlight have advanced to the point where you can build applications (albeit, not as robust) with them, which would allow people to circumvent Apple's approval process.
    RamEliC
    • I doubt that

      A year before Apple was allowing people to write native apps, they were
      encouraging people to build web apps, and they still have a large portion
      of their dev center dedicated to iPhone web apps. I don't know why they
      don't want Flash, but it's not because they want control over apps.
      nova81426
    • Apple is Spinning

      First of all, I want to say that I think Apple
      is spinning the unavailability of Flash because
      Apple's having a little spat with Adobe over
      future support of the Mac platform.

      Apple could, though, put some resources into one
      of the almost finished, open Flash alternatives
      (Gnash, for example), just as they did by
      turning KHTML into WebKit. I guess the size of
      the egos involved makes that impossible.
      daengbo
      • This is the writer's belief as well.

        He claims that "he does not know" why Apple hates Flash. I'll tell you
        why: Flash absolutely sucks on OS X and Linux. Flash is so against what
        we consider an open web: it's like IE in this regard. If Flash is an integral
        part of the web experience, why on earth should such an experience be
        platform specific? Flash is fine if you are using a PC and the website
        designer is conscientious.

        Jobs is right: when Safari crashes, it is usually because of Flash. Adobe is
        lazy.
        jct12
    • Wrong: ever heard of Silverlight or HTML5? (nt)

      nt
      kckn4fun
  • Rich web experience... (Skip Intro)

    Flash is the delivery mechanism for annoying ads that move across a web page, and you can't find an easy way to stop them. So there you are, every second an eternity, as some marketer obstructs your view of a news story. That's what Flash is.
    HollywoodDog
    • like the one on Zdnet.com?

      with that annoying idiot rolling a giant ball of
      cords and crap across the screen? As many times as
      I had to see that stupid ad, I never once caught
      the advertiser's name, or even what they were
      selling.

      Effective advertising, huh?
      SystemVoid
    • seriously?

      do you think those annoying ad would go away if flash was gone? Advertiser would just switch to other tech(HTML 5)to create their ads. Flash has a high penetration rate, and is easier to develop "rich" content then html, so that is why it is used for these ads. It is such an infantile argument against Flash.
      mnkyhead
  • Flash, Flash, Flash

    Flash is Maleware, nothing more. It is the most anoying piece of crap available on the net.

    It need to go, but according to the pole on this page. there is a very hight % of clueless idiots who want Adobe to continue poluting the net with Flash
    Mectron
  • Maybe Adobe won't PAY Stevie Boy...

    ...for the "privilege" of him allowing Flash on HIS hardware.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised. After all, he tried to "hold up' Verizon a couple of years ago over the Gen 1 iPhone.
    IT_Guy_z