Thoughts on Apple’s “Thoughts on Flash”

Steve Jobs just posted a long-awaited explanation of why the iPlatforms don’t (and won’t) support Flash. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Apple and their behavior as it relates to today’s web with regards to the recent Section 3.3.1 changes, and I’m tempted to just let those thoughts stand rather than rant again. But I just can’t ignore this, after reading what Jobs just wrote.

First, there’s “Open”.

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Steve continues on to admit that the iPlatform is also closed, but he claims that Apple is being open with their mobile strategy because they are encouraging open web technologies for their apps.

Oh really, Steve? So wait, lemme see if I understand this correctly. Because you have a web browser (and UIWebView) on the mobile device that can run open web technologies like HTML5 and CSS3, that means you’re in the clear? So, this must mean that Cocoa is completely open, right? Oh, and the Apple SDK for building Objective-C apps, this is completely open, too, right? Ummmm… no, no they are not.

You’re blaming Adobe for having closed flash “products” (I guess you mean the authoring tools) but completely ignoring the fact that Apple’s development tools/technologies are also closed. If all it takes to absolve you of this “closedness” is offering open web technologies in one of your applications (Safari/UIWebView), then Flash is also open because you can do html/css rendering (although obviously not as advanced) inside of special text boxes inside of Flash.

This argument Jobs is making is ridiculous. It sets the tone for the rest of his document. It’s completely short-sighted and deliberate spin ignoring obvious facts. Quite disappointing, I expected something much more logical and well thought out from Steve.

Second, there’s the “full web”.

Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video on the web is in Flash.

It is an undeniable fact that the web DOES have a lot of Flash still on it. Even if you ignore video and games for a moment, there’s still tons of websites out there which use Flash for animations, navigations, and other visual decorations. CAN these sites all convert that stuff to non-flash? Possibly. But that’s not the real point, Steve.

The real point is that today’s web has lots of Flash still in it. You’ve single-handedly decided that all of that Flash content, without exception, is outdated, bad for the web, and destined for failure. So you decided you would start a movement, and use your large market share combined with the mobile craze to kill off this technology.

Jobs goes on to say that a lot of people have validated Apple’s anti-Flash campaign by switching to non-flash video. Make no mistake: all those sites which have switched their content (mostly video) away from Flash didn’t do so purely on the merits of HTML5/CSS3, they did so because you forced them to by refusing to let their slice of the web be viewable in the most popular mobile platform. You may argue that you were simply just sensing the trend and led the charge, but the reality is, there was lots of good flash content out there which you choked out by refusing to let it be viewable on the iPlatform.

Admit it, Apple. You don’t like today’s web. Specifically, you hate that today’s web has so much Flash in it, so you’ve decided you are going to use your unique market position to do something about it. You can circularly justify your actions all you want.. the fact is, you are the causation (however reluctantly) for many sites finally having to bear the pain to abandon Flash.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

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