Ding dong, the witch is dead. And by witch, I mean Flash, that multimedia web platform that enables everything from video to games. That’s good news for just about everybody, except, of course, for the people who are losing their jobs.
Adobe announced on Wednesday that it is ceasing development of Flash for mobile devices, which basically translates into its death knell. The company says it will concentrate its Flash development on computers, but with more and more web traffic happening on phones and tablets, there really isn’t much of a future there. After all, if you want people to view your website, you’re going to want to make sure they can look at it on their mobile devices. From this day forward, only the foolish will bother using Flash in their website design.
Many observers have already pointed out that Steve Jobs was right. A year and a half ago, the recently departed Apple guru famously wrote his declaration of war on Flash. The software was unstable, proprietary, not friendly to touch interfaces and a drag on battery life:
Flash was created during the PC era—for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards—all areas where Flash falls short. The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content…. New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.
On the surface of it, it looks like Jobs was indeed right, or even prescient. In reality, though, it’s more of a chicken-or-the-egg situation: Was Apple correct in its criticisms, or did Apple itself kill the Flash star?
With zillions of iPods, iPhones and iPads out there not running Flash, it’s more a case of the latter. Apple simply brought its considerable weight to bear and killed Flash.
Google, which has long said it supports openness on the web in all its forms, could have done the same thing but didn’t. It’s understandable why. With Apple’s big lead in mobile devices to overcome, Google had to look for every possible leg up, which is why Android devices have so far run Flash. That’s also why porn is big on Android—Jobs was notoriously against porn and probably would have liked to have killed it too. Apple may not be able to achieve that particular goal, but piracy is doing a nice job of it.
Ultimately, HTML5—which is supported by both Apple and Google—looks like it will rule both mobile devices and computers. It shouldn’t be too much longer before those infuriating blue boxes with questions marks become a thing of the past.