30 January 2010

On the iPad/Flash brouhaha

In a comment to this Smarterware blog post, Mark Williamson asks:

I am so torn, do I support 94% of my customers? Or do I let the 6% with either a choice that they made to not have flash or a choice that was made for them by their device supplier dictate how my site might work?

What you do is simply this: You make sites that degrade gracefully. That means you don’t use Flash (or any other such technology) for stuff you don’t need to use it for.

For example, I ordered pizza from Domino’s online recently with Flash disabled. I didn’t get to see the fancy preview image of my pizza with the toppings composited onto it because it required Flash. The actual functionality of the site—ordering food—worked perfectly fine without Flash.

John Nack writes:

And today, more than 15 years after Netscape debuted, Flash remains the only way to, say, display a vector chart across browsers (i.e., such that you can count on every viewer seeing it).

Except that you can’t count on every viewer seeing it. See the Smarterware post above. Those figures don’t even count most iPhone and iPod Touch traffic. That is why nearly every feature that has been added to the web over the years provides for providing alternate content for browsers that don’t support that feature.

It also doesn’t count the visually disabled who can’t see the chart even if they have Flash installed. This is why the standards today provide ways to provide text descriptions of visual elements.

If you use Flash to show a vector chart without providing a raster alternative and a text description, some “viewers” aren’t going to be able to “see” it.

Apple doesn’t support Flash on the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and won’t support it on the iPad. This is not about Flash vs. HTML5. This is not about Apple vs. Adobe.

Apple is not supporting any browser plug-ins on the iPhone OS devices. Why? Because browser plug-ins are the biggest source of Mac OS X crashes.

If you follow the advice of Lee Brimelow, as he wrote in the comments to his “The iPad provides the ultimate browsing experience?” post...

If you can do something in HTML then we recommend people to do that. Use Flash when you need richer interactivity. It’s not HTML OR Flash. They can coexist.

...then the iPad not having Flash won’t be a problem. Flash is for the butter, not the bread.

So, is Apple lying when it claims the iPad is “the ultimate browsing experience”?


Where to even start? The fact that this is opinion? (It’s not hard to find someone who feels that browsing without Flash is better than browsing with it, by the way.) The fact that it is marketing?

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