Apple has been criticizing Adobe Systems lately for what Cupertino perceives as poor performance and design deficiencies in Adobe’s Flash web media technology, which it darned well wants to keep off the iPhone and iPad. Adobe, in turn, has been defending Flash, however gently, citing it as a great enabling technology that has got the web in large part to where it is today. Both companies are correct, and that’s the point that seems to be missed by most of the pundits standing around pointing at the fight. Flash has been vital to the success of the web, but Flash is old.
Apple’s preferred media architecture, HTML5, is the future of the web.
Web browsers have swallowed up most every app you used to have to install on your PC. Something like TurboTax needs forms to input data, display tables of numbers, and store your returns on their server. But if you want to have forms smart enough to know what’s a date and what’s a dollar; to draw piecharts; or store your W-2 on your laptop, then you need a new browser.
Flash always picked up where the browser left off, but it can’t talk to your webcam, store local files, or draw pixels directly to your screen. Now, for the first time, a cluster of technologies known as HTML5 allow a standards-based pathway to busting those barriers with canvas graphics, drawing video onscreen, smarter forms, and local storage for private data. So who needs Flash?
John Gruber is right: Flash is responsible for most of the crashes of my Mac. I can hardly blame Adobe for defending its very successful Flash franchise, though it feels strange coming from that nerdiest of nerdy companies. And I admit there are still a few things that Flash can do but HTML5 can’t, but the evolutionary path here is clear.
Where Flash a decade ago enabled browsers to do more, I can see a time coming soon when Flash will force browsers to do less than they might.
It’s time for a change.