By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm
Did irritation with Adobe Flash reach some sort of tipping point over the past few days? Probably not. But the heated debate about the near-pervasive plug-in for video, animation, and interactivity has made for fascinating reading.
When Steve Jobs sat on stage using an iPad that clearly didn’t support Flash, the discussion of Flash and iPhone OS instantly shifted from “Will Apple ever allow Flash on iPhone OS?” to “What does it mean for Flash that Apple will never allow it on iPhone OS?” to, in some cases, “What does it mean for the Web that Flash is on its way out?”
Over the weekend, dogpile on the rabbit syndrome set in. Adobe employees blogged in defense of Flash, but if the software got a stirring defense from anyone else, I didn’t come across it. Even the thoughts from Flash supporters tended to be bleak.
If aggravating ads and Web sites with pointless “intros” drive you bonkers, don’t blame Flash–if and when HTML5 becomes pervasive, that stuff will all still exist in HTM5 form. On the other hand, if you dislike Flash because you find it buggy or sluggish–or because you don’t want to deal with plug-ins, period–HTML5′s support for video (and rich interactivity) could be the solution.
But not yet. HTML5 video is fabulous in principle, and if I were the type to bet on the outcome of technical wars, I’d place my money on it. So far, it’s an unratified, still-evolving would-be Web standard, not a done deal: Safari and Chrome support one video codec, Firefox supports another, and the still-dominant Internet Explorer doesn’t do HTML5 video at all yet.
One way or another, all this will work itself out. Adobe has ambitious plans to put Flash on a bevy of mobile platforms. The squabbling over implementation of HTML5 can’t go on forever, unless the goal is to render the standard irrelevant. Nearly all significant Flash-based content will make its way to the iPhone and iPad, via HTML5, native iPhone OS apps, and/or other means.
Me, I don’t look at any of this in philosophical terms. I just want the content I’m interested in to be available on all the devices I use, via technology that’s so reliable I forget it’s there. If Flash can do that, cool. But if it’s not available on the iPhone OS, it can’t. And if it’s competing against built-in HTML5 features that are available on all browsers, it’s hard to see how it can win–unless, as folks are suggesting, Adobe ditches the Flash Player and makes Flash into a tool for creating HTML content.
Let’s end this with a few tweets my Twitter pals sent in response to my question “What future do you wish for Flash?” And then a poll…