FLASH CONTENT is everywhere on the world wide web, other than on Apple's latest gadgets.
Apple's CEO Steve Jobs claims that the reason for this is that Flash is pants and everyone should be moving to HTML 5 anyway. In addition he blamed Flash for everything that causes his nice shiny Macs to crash.
Obviously Jobs was overstating things as relations between Adobe, which makes Flash, and Apple are not particularly good at the moment. But it has started an online debate about Flash's future.
While Flash is everywhere at the moment, Jobs is right. It is about to be out-evolved by the new HTML 5 standard. When the next version of HTML 5 is finalised it will ship with standardised video and audio codecs. That will effectively remove the need for Flash in any webpages.
The only thing that makes Jobs' statement hollow is that no one can rush to adopt HTML 5 yet. In fact the standard has not been agreed upon as yet and it will be at least 2012 before it is actually ratified.
However parts of the code are starting to appear in various products. Vimeo, Dailymotion and Youtube have launched pilot programs for HTML5 video technology. The players are basic, but they work. Also, the latest builds of the Webkit rendering engine, which is the basis behind Apple's Mac OS X, Iphone OS and Safari web browser, Google's Android OS, Chrome OS and Chrome web browser and the Palm Pre's web browser, supports full-screen HTML5 video. Even the Vole's Internet Exploder web browser supports bits of the code.
But for all this to work browsers have to support the standards totally and they don't, at least not yet. In fact it was only recently that the new version of Internet Exploder 8 replaced IE6 as the world's most popular browser.
What Jobs and indeed the tech press appear to be ignoring is that while IE6 is out there and most other browsers don't fully support the anyway incompleted standard yet, then the only option for the great unwashed is Flash.
With this in mind, a web developer who wants that sort of content on their page has no option but install Flash, at least for two more years.
Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch admits that it is crunch time for Flash. Basically the software's use has evolved from being something to be used on a tablet to more general use. It is also becoming a fine attack vector for hackers as the technology is stretched to do things it didn't do before.
Writing in his blog, Lynch said that Adobe is on the verge of launching Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones with all but one of the top manufacturers. Apparently this includes Google's Android, RIM's Blackberry, Nokia, Palm Pre and others, including not only smartphones but also tablets, netbooks, and Internet-connected TVs.
He said that Flash in the web browser will provide a competitive advantage to these devices because it will enable their customers to browse the whole web. This is being accomplished through Adobe's Open Screen Project, where Lynch said the company is working with over 50 partners to make this a reality across a wide array of devices.
Adobe's Lynch does not see HTML 5 as killing off Flash but rather giving the software a chance to do a bit more. He claims that there will always be a need for Flash, particularly as the browser makers can't get their act together to agree a common standard. And he might be right.
Jobs might be talking up HTML 5 but he knows it is years away. His comments were just another way of taking another swipe at Adobe. It covers the fact that his tiff with the outfit has now escalated to the point that mobile devices by Apple will not render Flash graphics. Since this is about 85 per cent of the top websites, it means that Apple users pay for his intolerance.
Meanwhile Flash is the railway station toilet of software. It smells of wee, is full of dodgy types, and we would not use it if we had a better choice. But it is better than nothing. µ
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