Well, gee willikers, I feel honored: The mighty Daring Fireball blog took a jab at me this afternoon. Mr. Fireball himself (hi, John!) dredged up an old story of mine about Flash, apparently to illustrate how Android's adoption of the technology was wrong, wrong, wrong.
In my original story -- written in August of 2010, shortly after Flash first started rolling out to Android phones -- I noted how the presence of Flash on a mobile phone allowed me to view elements of the Web that had previously been inaccessible.
From the original story:
After installing Adobe's Flash Player onto my Android phone, the first thing I noticed was that I could suddenly access the entire Web. Say what you want about how Flash is dead, how better technologies exist, whatever -- the fact remains that a lot of websites utilize it, and not having access to it restricts what you can do.
I was certainly aware of that restriction before having Flash on my device; denying it is denying the existence of a large chunk of legitimate content. Whether it's exclusive videos on a band's website or features integrated into a page's design, anyone who spends much time on the mobile Web and says he's never encountered that little blue box isn't being very honest. Heck, even Steve Jobs' inaugural demo of the iPad highlighted this missing content issue, though Apple's marketing department later tried to "magically" make the problem disappear.
Today, of course, Adobe announced it was discontinuing active development of its Flash Player for mobile devices. The company said it would continue to provide bug fixes and security updates for existing configurations -- and would allow companies that have licensed its source code to continue developing their own implementations -- but would move the bulk of its own mobile-focused resources to HTML5-centric endeavors.
Does this change or negate anything I said in my original missive? Nope. I've never positioned myself as an advocate for Flash as opposed to HTML5 on the Web; hell, I've never even considered myself a huge fan of Adobe's Flash technology. I've simply stated that the reality, like it or not, is that Flash is an integral part of the Internet in its current state. And, as I said in the segment quoted above, not having access to it restricts what you can do.
As the Web moves more toward an HTML-oriented approach for multimedia content, perhaps the need for mobile Flash access will diminish. Hey, no problem. Right now, though, there's still plenty of content that is Flash-based out there -- and like many Android owners, I still appreciate having the option to view it, if and when I want to, from my phone or tablet.
Adobe's decision to shift its development priorities doesn't take anything away from the benefit of having that option. I'm not a cheerleader for a Flash-centric Web; I'm a cheerleader for choice. Maybe the day will come when Flash is no longer a relevant part of the Internet. But until that day arrives, I'll enjoy being able to access the plethora of Flash-based content online from my phone -- a privilege that's just as relevant today as it was last August.
Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.