Adobe Flash: evolve or become the next IE6

A couple of weeks ago I commented upon Apple's decision to not support Flash on any of their mobile devices:

I would prefer to say "Flash is a hack," but I think Flash is too elegant to risk maligning it with such a word. Make no mistake though, as ubiquitous and well implemented that Flash is, it is just a shim, which evolved to address a major short coming on the web, mainly that the underlying specifications and browser creators could not adopt or drive adoption fast enough the technology to make animation and richer application development possible.

Today, Steve Jobs posted a letter detailing this same decision (a letter worth reading in full):

Flash was created during the PC era - for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards - all areas where Flash falls short.

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

I echo my sentiment again:

In just a few short years, when the gap Flash helped bridge is finally closed by well implemented and broadly adopted web standards, and the world of application development is expanded to include not just Objective-C and Flash programmers, but the entire world of HTML/CSS and Javascript programmers, hopefully a number of us will look back at this moment and say, "I can't believe I cared so much about this."

I know for many people, especially Adobe, the decision not to support Flash is an incredibly sensitive subject, but speaking as a web developer, I applaud them for taking a principaled stand in support of open web standards. The alternative, the reluctant support of an older and more obsolete technology to placate a dwindling group of laggards, can only saddle the entire web development industry with the burden of supporting a platform that is increasingly harder and more costly for us to support.

Need I remind web developers of the ire they feel when a client requires them to support Internet Explorer 6 and what it does to the products we build for them? Need I remind you of the hack after hack after hack we must implement and re-implement just to appease the CEO of a company who is too old and too lazy to upgrade their frack'n browser already?

Flash is the mobile and open web's IE6 and I am glad that a company with the market muscle to actually make a difference is taking a stand for what proponents of the open web have been saying for years.


Kottke chimes in:

Jobs sort of circles around the main issue which is, from my own perspective as heavy web user and web developer: though Flash may have been necessary in the past to provide functionality in the browser that wasn't possible using JS, HTML, and CSS, that is no longer the case. Those open web technologies have matured (or will in the near future) and can do most or even all of what is possible with Flash. For 95% of all cases, Flash is, or will soon be, obsolete because there is a better way to do it that's more accessible, more open, and more "web-like".

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I think there are two separate conversations here.

Many people, even dedicated flash users, agree that the standards need to be changed to a lighter, faster model. It's coming. Everybody relax. HTML5 alone isn't going to cut it.

I think only the most dedicated fanboys, though, think Steve Jobs should sit high atop his walled garden and lecture anyone on open standards. Steve is the last man on Earth to take stand on a principle that wasn't going to enrich his wallet or allow him more control over a tightening system. (sidenote: It's also a bit tacky to gloss over HTML5's glaring weaknesses--like gaming--with a "oh, uh, we have games, too")

Anyone else not allowing backwards compatibility gets called out on what it really is: a dick move.

So, it's one thing to appreciate the call for a better set of standards; it's another to stand behind the man who represents all that is evil in standards as your knight in shining armor.

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