steve jobs posted an open letter this week describing his thoughts on adobe’s flash: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/. in it, he contends that flash is “closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesnâ€™t support touch based devices.” jobs closes with “Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”
i’m a lot less technical than i used to be in my younger days as a software engineer. back then, flash was a nice way to provide some functionality that was impossible to do with HTML, and a way to provide a consistent experience in different browsers without having to do crazy browser check scripts. as the users for flash expanded and flash video became more prevalent, i started to have more of an internal struggle with flash. Â what people were doing with it was fantastic, especially streaming flash video. the downside was that i found myself waiting for browser and flash player updates to combat a lot of performance hits occurring on my computers…yes, computers plural, different vintages and capabilities. occasionally, it got to the point that my computer slowed down so much i had to close my browser, which is like cutting off my connection to the world. unacceptable!
as a user, i’m really just interested in whatever will give me the best experience. do i really care if the man behind the curtain uses flash or html5? ultimately, not really. i want the best quality in the fastest way possible. do i feel left out by not having flash on my iphone? again, not really. i find that whatever i need to do, “there is an (free) app for that.” talk to me a year from now when i have to have 20 different applications on my iphone to watch different video sources or, worse, when i have to start paying for these applications. on the latter point, i’m hopeful that the invisible hand of the market will keep that in check. but i don’t think flash is the answer to that particular problem.
if you’ve popped over to my photography site, you may have noticed that it’s got a lot of flash on it. hypocritical? maybe. do i like to ask questions so that i can answer them? sometimes.
so why the flash? honestly, it was easier and presented a really nice user experience without having to spend a lot of time doing any coding in the background. there are a ton of flash templates for all kinds of stuff, including photo galleries, that use some easy configuration files to present information and images in a slick way. if html5 is the next big thing (and with google, apple, and others behind it, it likely will be), there’s going to be more and more template-based and easily customizable tools to pop in to a website, and when the time comes, i’ll likely make the move. indeed, there may be such things already, Â and maybe i’ll find some time to do it sooner rather than later.
flash does pose other problems for my site. flash content doesn’t get “googled” like html does. so any text or image tags embedded inside the flash are ignored, so i’m missing opportunities to get ranked better and generally be more searchable inside of google. i maintain a separate “mobile” version of my site to support all the web-friendly devices that don’t support flash. although that includes my iphone, there are a lot of other web-capable devices that don’t do flash, either.
ultimately, though, just like from a user’s perspective, i don’t want to have to care about the technology. i want to provide my potential clients with the best possible experience from the most devices to maximize the potential to turn them from a potential client in to a paying client. the PC is and will likely continue to be the most common way someone browses my site, so at this point being iphone-friendly is a “nice to have”. with the ipad and more and more pretty mobile devices, though, the number of clients that access my site in that way will continue to grow, for sure, but really, potential customers will still want to see a portfolio on a larger screen (would you book a wedding photographer based on some tiny images on an iphone?), so until everyone has an ipad, a computer is still going to be the most common.
while i’m in no hurry to migrate my site away from flash, i am pretty certain that it is going to happen. the apple versus adobe battle was inevitable, and i’m pretty sure i would put my money on apple. but on a daily basis, i use my macbook running adobe’s creative suite, my iphone not running flash but still giving me the world (and games) in the palm of my hand. Â as long as adobe doesn’t do something stupid like treating CS on the mac differently, i’m safe from being collateral damage in this situation and the world will move on, even if the future is a flashless society.