During the keynote where Apple launched the iPad, Steve Jobs almost seemed to go out of his way to show that the new toy doesn’t support Adobe Flash on its browser. Apparently Adobe is all butthurt about that and sent their platform evangelist, Lee Brimelow to post an image of what the lack of Flash will mean on the iPad. Here, have a look:
I’ve got a few things to speak of here, but first, I think corporations should be burned to the ground when they hire someone to promote their product and then call that person an “evangelist.” When I think of what an “evangelist” looks like, I picture a guy in a bad suit schmoozing for money by using your fear of God to pick your pocket. In other words, someone like the Skeezix to the right.
That aside, what you’re seeing here is how Flash is required for some really popular online activities like playing FarmVille on Facebook, watching TV on Hulu, checking the latest news on CNN, and… wait a sec, is that a porn site? Why yes, yes it is. Apparently if you’re in need of porn on your pad, you’re out of luck because wee all know that there’s no such thing as a porn site that doesn’t use Flash.
Oh wait, there are millions of them. Never mind.
Still, there’s far more going on here than is readily apparent, and none of it bodes well for Adobe Flash. Flash is so ubiquitous on the web, we encounter it every day and sometimes it’s so cleverly used, we don’t even know it’s there. It’s a medium to video delivery ala YouTube or Vimeo. It’s a way to display images in galleries. Heck, chances are good that you’ve signed up for some kind of website and their form was based on Flash. So it would seem like Apple is being left out in the cold backwaters of the Net if it can’t include it on their iPad, right?
Not even close, and this whole fiasco is a harsh indicator of that if you know what’s coming.
HTML 5, the latest update to the new language of the web, supports and performs a lot of the tasks that were once only available through a Flash solution. It’ll do video. It’ll do galleries. And forms? Well, I have to say that a site relying on Flash for a stupid form is kind of weak anyway, but yes, HTML 5 handles forms just as well as HTML 4 did. That’s why Adobe suddenly threw out this image, to scare you out of buying something that doesn’t support Flash. No matter what your opinions are about Apple, the iPad, or any of that stuff, the fact that it doesn’t support Flash sounds bad, doesn’t it?
Well, let’s take a closer look at these websites here and see what’s really going on.
Turns out, Lee doesn’t seem to have bothered checking how these sites run on Mobile Safari, which is what the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad use for web browsing. If he had, he’d have noticed that these sites have dedicated Mobile Safari versions which load automatically upon detection of the browser. Others even have dedicated apps to deliver the same exact content that you’d find on the website. CNN, Disney, Spongebob, and yes, even the Bang Bros. porn site all work fine on an iPhone or iPad because the designers of these sites realized that supporting 30 million iPhones and 20 million iPod Touches is a little more important than worrying about Adobe’s aversion to Apple.
Kendal Helmstetter put together a nice chart rebutting all of Brimelow’s websites that won’t work without Flash. Turns out, the only two that don’t work through the browser, or through an app, is FarmVille and Hulu. That’s it. Thanks to things like HTML 5 and H.264 video, even the porn site works just fine. In other words, unless you want to play FarmVille or watch an episode of something that’s only available on Hulu, you don’t need Flash on the iPad, the iPhone, or the iPod Touch.
Libraries and Websites vs Flash
Now, what does this mean for libraries? That’s easy. Flash, and technologies like it, are doorways into your web presence. You can certainly have a site with lots of Flash and you can even require that a browser supports Flash for it to work with your site. If you do, you’re screwing yourself and your patrons. I didn’t use that “doorways” metaphor by accident. What if you built a library, but you used a specific kind of door that allowed only certain people to get in? Say you built a really narrow door that allowed people to get in if they were around average height and average weight. That means you’ve got a door that allows most of the population in, but far from all of them.
Taller people have to bend down to get through the door. People in wheelchairs are out because the chairs won’t fit through a narrow door. An overweight person can’t get in because they’re too wide for your door, and so on.
There are laws and building codes in place to make sure this doesn’t happen when you build your library. The entire point of these laws is to make sure that anyone can enter into and use your library building regardless of how that person is built. Since you can’t, and wouldn’t, make such a narrow door to your physical library, why would you want to make such a narrow door to your website? Indeed, requiring Flash on any website isn’t really building a narrow door so much as it’s building a narrow window.
Flash is useful, sure, but it’s no longer the only game in town. That’s why Adobe is playing the porn card along with engaging in some Microsoft level of creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
I think it’s interesting to note that Brimelow has since removed the image of the porn site and claimed that it was a joke. Well, if that’s true then it’s a stupid joke by and for stupid people of which I can now count Brimelow among that number. Also, he’s upset that some “news” agencies are reporting that Adobe played the porn card. That “news” agency that he felt the need to put in quotes is Wired Magazine, one of the more respected and popular sources of tech news in the world. Placing the word “news” in quotes while referring to a tech news site like Wired Magazine is tantamount to doing the same thing with placing “Netflix” in quotes when talking about an online video service which sends DVDs by mail.
Finally, he claims that his blog is not the official Adobe blog and that he’s not speaking on behalf of Adobe.
Lee, you’re the platform evangelist for Flash, Flex, and AIR development communities. I know that because that’s what it says on your blog. As an evangelist you are a public relations man and therefore when you’re speaking about Adobe then everyone is going to rightly believe that you are speaking on behalf of Adobe since that is, you know, your job. Seriously, if I were in charge of Adobe and found that my PR guy is speaking out of turn about a product, I’d quickly be in the market for a new PR guy.
If you’re not acting as a voice for Adobe, then why remove the image of the porn site because Adobe didn’t think it was funny? It’s your blog and it’s not the official blog right? So why do that? Maybe it’s because you’re speaking for your employer after all.