Lies and Marketing
Lee Brimelow made this wonderful post ridiculing the iPad’s lack of flash. Only one problem with it.
It’s a lie.
And that’s a problem. Apparently, he made those wonderful claims of his without ever once checking the reality of them. Most of those sites that supposedly don’t show anything, actually do. As this set of screen captures shows.
Which means he wasn’t interested in truth at all, nor even in the experience of web users, as he claims. All he wanted to do was complain because that Big Meanie over at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino didn’t want to let him bring his own toys to the iPad and iPhone party. Boo hoo.
Let’s get something straight right up front. I ain’t no fanboy. I don’t own an iPhone, nor will I be queueing up on day one to get an iPad. I’ve been an Adobe customer for as long as I’ve been an Apple customer, since Photoshop version 2.x. I even stayed an Adobe customer after they deliberately killed the best illustration program I’ve ever used (Freehand — after two earlier failed attempts they finally managed, not to beat it in the marketplace, but rather they kept buying companies in a repeated attempt to get it off the market). I’ll admit to a point of view, here. I’m amused by the flash fanboys who can’t seem to realize their own playground is just as proprietary, just as limited and controlled, as Apple’s.
Yes, it’s amusing to watch Adobe, from their closed proprietary yard, cry foul at Apple’s closed proprietary yard (pot, meet kettle) but that’s about it. The world, and the web, will do fine, with or without Flash. Right now, there are far more examples of bad Flash use than bad HTML5 Video use, but I’m sure that will level out eventually — flash developers have certainly not cornered the market on ineptitude. It only seems that way, sometimes.
Professionals know the iPad is just another device we have to deal with, just like we know Flash is just another tool in the box, and no tool is the right choice for every device, and probably never will be. So we plow around the rocks in the field that we can’t lift. For simple video, the solution is fairly obvious: do your video in H.264, because that will give you the widest access to your customers. As John Nack pointed out in a post on a more official site Flash will deliver H.264 as well as native flash format. So you do the video in H.264, and use Flash as the ancillary system to deliver the H.264 to the clients that can’t see it natively. Problem solved, the same way we’ve been working around IE’s limitations for years (thanks for the practice, MS).
John raises other issues about why Flash is such a hog on OSX, and while they may or may not be true (I admit I don’t know) I really can’t see why I, as a professional web builder, should care. It is what it is, and I have to deal with it the way it is, not the way John Nock or Steve Jobs, or anyone else, for that matter, wants it to be. And the way it is, the performance of Flash on OSX is sub-par. That’s reality, and it’d be far more productive to fix that than stand around pointing fingers.
Just to clarify on my post. See this set of screenshots meant to counter mine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kigiphoto/4314276957/.
I will repeat my comments that I made on Flickr:
So on a device that touts the ultimate browsing experience I get mobile versions of websites with static content?
CNN: The majority of video and interactive pieces are Flash.
Bang Bros: A small subset of their content is available in QT, the rest is Flash (or so I hear).
Google Finance: The rich, interactive Flash chart is replaced with a static GIF file.
Disney and Nick: A very small number of videos are available and a very small number of games, which don’t come close to matching the Flash versions.
My main point is that this is not the ultimate browsing experience. Most major sites have mobile versions but is that what I should get from a full size device?
So what you’re saying is that, in fact, browsing with Mobile Safari (which is the browser in the iPad) doesn’t in fact look anything like what you claimed it did, but rather you fabricated the screenshots to make a marketing point?
Isn’t that what I said you did?
(BTW, went to CNN on a laptop without flash and didn’t see a single blue lego on the front page, and my “hit rate” for “needs flash” from semi-randomly clicking on stories — it had to be a story I wanted to see, so that limited the randomness — from that front page was down below 5%.)
Bottom Line: Flash is a useful tool for interactivity on the web. It’s also useful as a video delivery system. Look at what I wrote above and I don’t think you’ll find anything to contradict that statement (for example, the sentence beginning “For simple video …” advocates using Flash). But I maintain it’s not the only road to that goal, nor is it automatically the best road for every device, so not having it is not a flaw. The HTML5 video element is also a useful video delivery system, and it runs more efficiently than flash, which is why Flash gets blocked or disabled, and why we have always had to add code to work around the lack of it.
My goal in building websites isn’t to make Adobe money. My goal is to serve the client, so I have to “play it where it lies” — sometimes with Flash, sometimes without it. I don’t believe in “Best viewed with..” labels, whether it applies to operating systems, browsers, or Adobe plug-ins.