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The iPad makes demands on Web developers

The tablet, like the iPhone, doesn't support Adobe's Flash

By Joab Jackson
April 5, 2010 01:50 PM ET

IDG News Service - Web developers behind the sites on Apple's approved list of iPad-ready online destinations have confronted an issue that the device-maker is forcing to the fore: are official World Wide Web Consortium standard languages sufficient tools to deliver cutting edge functionality, or do plug-ins lead the way in design innovation?

Soon after Apple unveiled the iPad in January, one point quickly became clear for Web developers: Just as with the iPhone, the device would not support Adobe Flash, or any other Web plug-in.

Instead, if Web developers wanted all the dynamic content on their pages such as videos and animations to appear correctly on Apple's new device, they had to create it using only the next generation markup language for the Web, HTML5, and related open standards.

At first glance, it appears like a logical move to stick with open standards, rather than technology largely controlled by a single company.

"A lot of the things that Flash has traditionally been used for, were Flash's domain, because there weren't any credible open standards available. Now there are," said Bruce Lawson, a vocal HTML5 advocate who also works on the Opera Software as a developer relations (for this interview, he stressed that his opinions were his own, and not those of Opera).

But a casual search on Google reveals that there are at least 74 million web pages that use the Shockwave Flash (SWF) format. It is a tall order to ask all of them to change for a single company's line of products, even if Apple sold more than 500,000 of these devices last weekend.

Observers also note that the developer tools for HTML5 aren't as advanced as those for Flash, and the standard is not finished yet, which could lead to more work for developers down the road to readjust pages to meet the finalized standard.

And by eschewing the Web's plug-in model, the iPad may potentially miss out on cutting edge features enjoyed elsewhere on the Web.

For photo-sharing site Flickr, the chief feature on the site that needed to be addressed was video, which the company has been gradually introducing into its service.

"It was not a huge effort," said Flickr Project Manager Markus Spiering, though quickly adding the site's developers were already familiar with the standards that Apple was requiring for the device.

"We were using Flash for our video content, but the iPad doesn't support Flash," Spiering said. "The iPad has a built-in HTML5 video player, which we could leverage."

The Web development team were already testing HTML5, and had already borrowed some of the work it did for the Apple TV, which worked well in the iPad format.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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