The iPhone & iPad Flash Debate: It’s NOT just about Video!!

June 9, 2011 3 By Tad Reeves

Every time I read an article about the iPhone and iPad and the spurning of Flash that Steve Jobs & Apple has decided upon, the conversation is always just about video.  Video, video, video, and the differences between Flash Video and h.264 video played on the iPhone and so forth.

The Apple response to this is a seemingly well-intentioned suggestion that everyone just use HTML5 instead of Flash.

Now, as a web guy, I loathe the idea of someone blithely and sometimes gleefully informing me that I’d love to re-code my whole app in HTML5 when (a) HTML5 isn’t even supported remotely standardly across browsers yet whereas Flash is, and (b) there are tons of things you simply CAN’T DO in HTML5 yet – for example PixelBender effects in Flash.

So PLEASE can we stop talking about video!

Whether you like it or hate it, Flash is an established programming platform which has been used for a MASSIVE number of apps that we love & use on a daily basis.  Not just YouTube and Zynga games, but for a bazillion other things that transparently just work on the Desktop (as 98% of you have Flash installed already).

Examples of some of my favorite websites that totally don’t work, or have seriously degraded performance or features on the iPad due to the lack of Flash:



An AMAZING application that lets you just upload your photos to Flickr or Picassa and then tweak them from any browser.  You can blur/sharpen/tone/vignette/etc your photos, and make tweaks in a faster flowline than even Photoshopping on the Desktop.  ALL DONE IN FLASH and completely not available on the iPad.  Try replicating some of those graphics filters in HTML5, and then try doing it across browsers & platforms.  Picnik works for me right now on PC, Mac and Linux, flawlessly.  But not on iPhone or iPad.

Google Analytics:


Like any website owner and administrator, I look at my analytics all the time, and would love to be able to use tools like Google Analytics when I’m on the go on a slick tablet device like the iPad, or on an iPhone.

Google Analytics renders nearly all of its graphs, and its neat-o map overlays using Flash.  The widgets for changing date range, etc all of them done in Flash, which makes the whole tool basically unusable on the iPad.   Could Google re-code the whole app to work with HTML5 or JS image & graphing libraries?  Sure, nothing stopping them particularly except that it’s a huge amount of work for little return except to satisfy iPad users.

Gmail & Flickr Photo Uploaders:


Both Gmail and Flickr have great Flash-based file uploader tools that allow you to upload large numbers of photos at once, and see great little progress bars on their upload progress.

Doesn’t work at all on the iPad.  Without Flash, you’re forced to upload one file at a time in a time-consuming & infuriating procedure.    Could that be re-coded in HTML5?  Perhaps.  Would it work seamlessly in all browsers? No way.


image When looking for a new condo recently, the best site I found by far is a site called HotPads, that uses a flexible and intuitive map control to let you dynamically select what you want to see on the map, price range, type of unit, etc.

Could they re-code their mapping app in JS and HTML5?  Sure.  Why would they want to though?  The map currently works for 98% of users when done in Flash and they have the performance and features they want.

There are a ton more, and I’d love to have your commentary on any other apps you use that aren’t just video, but which would need to be completely re-done from scratch or would not be doable at all given the current state of HTML5.

So please, the battle about iOS devices on Flash is NOT about video.  It’s about a retrograde step in the usability of web applications on the net.