Steve Jobs has posted a defence to his position on Flash and not surprisingly it’s full of errors and misrepresentations.

Let’s look at the points he makes:

First, there’s “Open”.

He asses that “Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc.”
Sure, Adobe’s Flash products are only available from Adobe. That’s what makes them Adobe’s.
But there are many open source IDE’s, compilers, RTMP servers and players available.

Also he claims that “By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.”
Flash is a complex system made up from many parts, but the most important part is the swf format. That is an open format, and you can write both a compiler and a player
without needing a license.
So if the swf is open what is Jobs referring to when he says “100% proprietary”?
It cannot be the RTMP and AMF formats since they are open. And the whole SDK with compiler and Flex framework is open.

The one thing that is not fully open is Adobes own implementation of a Flash Player. Since Apple is one of the licensors behind H.264 one would think that Jobs would be aware of why Adobe cannot release it publicly. It contains proprietary codecs and hence cannot be made open by Adobe.
But if Jobs is concerned with proprietary products, maybe he should work for making H.264 open to help Adobe open the Flash Player as well?

And let’s not forget that the canvas is Apple’s proprietary technology.

Second, there’s the “full web”.

Here Jobs claims that “Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access ‘the full web’ because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don’t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads.”
To claim that “almost all” the web would be the same as the “full web” is of course dishonest in itself, and in this case the “almost” is very broad since there is countless sites that have not bothered with HTML5 yet.

And he seems to forget that Flash is used for a lot more than displaying video. He does mention games, but seems to think that because there are many games for iPhone today there are no games on the web.
He’s trying to argue that Adobe are wrong when they say Flash is needed to access “the full web”, and in the middle of the argument he switches focus to the app store and how many games there are there. Clearly Jobs has a vision to replace the Internet with his tightly controlled app store, and is expecting users to to the same. But the argument was about the web, and the fact remains that apart from video there are a lot of apps, games and animations which cannot be viewed without Flash.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

The reliability and performance arguments never get’s old for Steve. I guess he still hasn’t bother with benchmarking to actually find out that his assumptions are bogus.
HTML5 and JS certainly does not provide greater stability or performance. That should be pretty clear to anyone familiar with the technologies.

Regarding security, looking at data from Secunia and the number of threats and time for them to get patched I would say that Flash has a rather good security record. It’s certainly not the case that JS is secure and Flash isn’t.

Fourth, there’s battery life.

Here Jobs goes in to the importance of hardware encoding. What he seems to miss is that Adobe and several hardware manufacturers are cooperating to provide acceleration in Flash Player 10.1.
Of course Apple could have done the same if they where concerned with the battery life, but that would require some effort, and dumping Flash is of course easier.

And don’t forget that Apple is a licensor of H.264, and hence it’s natural Jobs want Flash to die. With Flash developers can freely choose codecs, but with HTML5 you need to make sure the users browsers supports the codec you use. This means in practice that encoding in H.264 will remain obligatory for some time. The reason is that Safari does not support open codecs like Ogg Theora because it’s open, while Mozilla does not support H.264 because it’s proprietary. So with HTML5 Apple has a chance to exert control over the choice of codec, but with the Flash Player H.264 will be optional.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

Oh dear, I cannot believe this is written by Jobs and not by one of his mindless drones : “Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on “rollovers”, which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot.”

So Flash is bad because it has a roll over state…just like pretty much any other technology?
And “many websites rely on rollovers” is simply not true, just like there are very few HTML sites that rely on roll overs. He even goes on to claim that “most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices”.

Maybe Jobs surfed to with his iPad and got upset?
Calm down Steve, it’s an old experiment and I can assure you that most sites using Flash do not rely on rollovers.

And since it seems like Steve is a bit clueless about the development process, someone should explain to him that for sites that currently do rely on rollovers it’s a lot easier to change event type for your buttons than rewriting the whole app using a new technology.

Sixth, the most important reason.

This is the only point he does not try to support by lying or misrepresenting facts. He want’s full control over the platform, and if that means not providing a very often requested feature then so be it.
Of course it requires less effort to not have to work together with any third parties…a dictatorship is a very efficient form of government as well.
Developers and customers expect a certain degree of interoperability and backwards compatibility. And one have to strike a balance between trying to keep the platform progressing and ensuring differentiation in the marketplace while also ensuring that developers and customers are happy.

Looking at the many voices demanding Flash on the iPhone/iPad and developers outrage over section 3.3.1 it seems to me that Apple clearly is out of balance here, but time will tell. Personally I think a put option on Apple stock is looking better and better for each day.

He ends with “Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”
Adobe are working on HTML5 tools, but unlike Jobs they are obviously smart enough to realise that there is room for more than one technology.
And claiming that Flash is the past is of course pure arrogance from Jobs. It’s a product that is very much alive making with frequent major updates, and that is currently used to serve the vast majority of the multimedia on the web.
It’s designed specifically for delivering multimedia and rich applications in the browser, while HTML5 is an attempt to add that functionality to an ageing mark-up language.

Related posts:

  1. Jobs lies regarding Flash Security
  2. Why can’t HTML5, Flash, Android and iPhone just get along?
  3. HTML5 canvas proprietary Apple technology?
  4. Apple’s master plan
  5. Flash Player will add VP8 support

27 Responses to “Jobs lies in “thoughts on Flash””

  1. You have skipped the real reason:

    “In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?”

    Can you point us to ANY device that is currently shipping with the “full Flash for Mobile” that was supposed to be out in 2009?

  2. I agree with everything in this post except the title. While creating a universal player is a monumental task, Adobe is the party who has let me down by not releasing one.

    Adobe gives Steve the ammunition he used to craft a selective, persuasive argument for anyone worried about having buyer’s remorse because there is no iFlash.

    It will remain more difficult to create iPhone apps, which, in theory, will keep crappy apps out of the approval pipeline/appStore. This is in keeping with the exclusivity aura that is an important part of the Apple brand and I respect it (irrespective of the amount of inappropriate adult stuff they let through anyway).

    After the persuading, the reality remains that I am not going to be able to develop an iPhone version of Flash apps. There is no viable alternative that compares to Flash for the content I develop today. If there was I would consider it, must like I jumped to Flash from Director/Shockwave 10 years ago. The difference is that now this will be a topic of conversation, and source of doubt, with clients.

  3. @Andrew Morton
    If that is the real reason I guess that will change soon then.

    Mobile devices have been very underpowered compared to computers, and hence it would not have made much sense to make them run the full version of Flash. Now they are catching up to be within the normal range of minimum requirements and can handle most applications without problem.
    Sure Adobe could have rushed a player out on the market, but I don’t think that Jobs would been more happy about that.
    They are taking their time working with partners to ensure they get hardware acceleration support

    Anyway, I’m not sure why iPhone/iPad users that do want Flash have to do with the fact that the Flash Player for mobile devices is delayed. Jobs would not have to hold is breath, but he could have cooperated with Adobe to get a player for iPhone when Adobe is confident that they have a good product.

    HTML5 is way behind the original schedule as well, should not Jobs drop HTML5 support using the same logic?

  4. Disillusioned is a better word than Liar. I don’t think Jobs is flat out lying, I think he definitely believes these things.

  5. Here’s the thing…Jobs has 3 end goals:

    1 – removal of flash and all other plugins from the web to make the internet “App” oriented. The simpler the web is, the more apps people will need and the more money he will make.

    2 – convince the world that Flash will not work on mobile before every other tablet & mobile device with online capabilities is using Flash Player 10.1. If he cannot do this, then Flash proves it can work on mobiles and Jobs is proven flat out wrong.

    3 – keep this story in the news. The story was dead from mass media. the only people following it since about a month ago are the techies who are involved. He needed to make this statement today to ensure it continues to stay relevant.

  6. I thought the iPad was the best, most magical web experience available. If it really were, then the Flash issue wouldn’t be so large as to warrant this letter.

  7. I read that letter today and could not believe that pretty much every point in it was an outright lie or at least a long stretch of the truth. Open this and that and then H.264 and app store! Wha what?

    What’s really odd is that he left out the number one reason not to use flash for websites, which is flash’s lack of search engine indexing and content linking. I am a flash developer and I have made sites that overcome these problems using javascript, hash linking and loading xhtml as xml for flash content (with the xhtml being search spider friendly). However it usually does not make sense to do that instead of just go with an html site with flash elements where needed.

    Anyhow, more and more I see Jobs as a complete megalomaniac and want to avoid him and his company as much as possible. And I like Macs, but he’s too much. He’s become worse than Bill Gates at the height of the Netscape scandal.

  8. swf is not open. It is documented and you can use third party tools to create content. But the process of developing that format is entirely up to Adobe.

    The process of developing the HTML5, CSS and Javascript formats is within a very open body of discussion.

    I agree with Steve’s decision upon the grounds that I simply want to see Flash die and HTML5, CSS and Javascript succeed.

    That being said. Go buy an Android device.

  9. jeremy, text & externally loaded xml within swfs are indexable by google for more than a year or so now.

  10. Well, this article is sour-grapes as usual. Let’s see, Jobs has ulterior, financial motives? Well maybe BlixSystems, the Flash Actionscript Developers have ulterior, financial motives as well?

    Sheesh. Gimme a break. Flash is garbage, it should die a quick death so we can get on with progress. It’s not Apple’s fault you all decided to invest your time and livelihoods in junk technology that people obviously don’t need.

    Go program for Android, and go buy some other phones/devices if you don’t like it. Apple can do whatever they want with their platform.

  11. @Davis Hammon
    According to my definition of “open”, a format which is published and you can use without a license is open. It doesn’t have to be an “open standard” to be “open”.
    Regardless of the definition, Flash would be completely pointless if it was developed as an open standard. I like to see not only different technologies compete, but also different business and development models.
    HTML5 is currently struggling to achieve the capabilities Flash had a decade ago, which gives some credibility to the thought that open standards leaves a lot to be wished for when it comes to the rate of progress.

    And in practice I don’t see that big difference between WHATWG and Adobe. WHATWG is a small group with only Apple, Mozilla and Opera represented. Until W3C recognizes HTML5 as a standard let’s not make it out to be something set by “a very open body”.

    Adobe doesn’t control the swf format more than Apple controls the HTML5 standard. They work with countless manufacturers of software and hardware as well as publishers and content providers to ensure that they get the features they want. It’s in their interest to listen to the parties using the technology to keep the Flash Platform competitive.

    If I buy any product it’s not on the top of my priorities if it’s designed by a “very open body” or not. I don’t think organisations like W3C is a efficient way to develop technology at all.
    If the design is good, it doesn’t matter who made it. But I do care if my use of the product is restricted. If I buy a car I don’t want to be forced to buy petrol and tires from the manufacturer, and if I buy a computing device I don’t want to be forced to buy software from the manufacturer.

    With HTML5 my use is restricted. I cannot write my own canvas rendering without a license from Apple. It’s currently royalty free, but that doesn’t equal open.
    Flash I can do what I want with. I can write a compiler and a player without a license. If you don’t like Adobes direction you can make your own implementation.
    If you try to make an implementation of the canvas the W3C license “may be limited to implementations of the Recommendation, and to what is required by the Recommendation”. So if you do not follow the recommendations you might not be covered by the license.

    Until Apple donates the canvas and support open codecs with Safari they should really shut up about HTML5 being open.

    But I really have to ask, why do you “want to see Flash die and HTML5, CSS and Javascript succeed”?

    I think HTML5, JS and CSS has loads of flaws but I hope they work them out.
    I see no advantage in Flash taking over the web completely, and think it’s great with a few different technologies like HTML5, Flash, Silverlight and Unity3D to choose from.

    The idea of one web under the one pure open standard where all the alternatives are dirty and has to die makes it very tempting to invoke Goodwin’s law on the discussion, but I will refrain from that.

    My interest in Flash is not so much financial. Financially Apples behaviour could even be good for developers. With many locked in proprietary platforms to support there is more work.

    The only reason I do not want to start using only HTML, CSS och JS is that I would find it boring and annoying compared to Flash. I love working with Flash, and that is why I specialized in it. If it would no longer be a viable platform it would not be the financial aspect that bothered me, but if the viable alternatives would be nice to work with.

  12. @Leo
    Totally agree. Guys, let’s focus on Flash’s actual technical merits, why it’s more efficient, greater possibilities, consistent across browsers, faster innovation.

    Just this discussion about “open” is silly, please…
    Flash is not open. Which is its advantage. If it was we’d be nowhere. Fundamental web technologies must be open, yes. Specialized add-ons like Flash don’t have to, as long the company controlling it delivers a great product and is *open-ear*.

    Watering down or redefining open is pointless and gets a bit embarrassing, to be honest.
    It should be about Flash’s tangible technological advantage, and reminding people that the web is not all about serious text-based content but also entertainment, playfulness, fun… which is where Flash excels.

  13. A lot of you are missing one of the big issues with supporting a full Flash website, Flash games, or Flash videos on a touch screen device. With a PC/MAC the mouse interacts with the item using mousemove, mouseover, mouseout functions. But, from a coding perspective, to code for a touch device you have to add touchstart, touchmove, touchend, and touchcancel functions because with a touch screen device there is no mouse.

    (I know from experience, but here is a SOURCE: )

    So lets say, all of the other reasons that people call “lies” were a non-issue and you can view full Flash websites, view Flash games, or view Flash videos on any mobile device that has a touch interface. You would find that it WOULD NOT WORK. Without taking telling the object how to interact with the touch interface nothing would happen when you try to interact with it.

    Another thing people seem to be reading over,
    We are talking about the WEB here, not the iFamily operating system. I don’t really see what the big who-ha about Apple wanting to keep there OS closed is. I bet, 99% of you are using either a Windows OS or a MAC OS. Both of the OS’s are closed source and when something tries to change anything with your OS it is usually called a “Virus”. Don’t worry, I can hear you threw the screen, “But I can use Flash on my PC/MAC!” With installing the Flash “Plugin” you are NOT Changing the OS, you are installing a plugin for an program you have installed on your OS i.e. a web browser.

    So again,
    If you want to jump on the “APPLE SUCKS” band wagon because they want to keep there OS closed then feel free to install Linux for an operating system here: if not, please understand the difference between the OS and the WEB.

    Lastly, I’ll be brief.
    What goes on Apples App Store is there own discussion. iTunes and the App Store is there own creation, so stop criticizing them for what they will and wont allow, please. You bought their product, that is running their operating system, that is connected to their online store. This is Apple, nothing has changed since iTunes has came into existence….

  14. Yeah, nobody has never ever seen Flash work on any mobile device.

    *Quick google search for vids of droids running flash in a presentation from Adobe, on a touchscreen interface, just fine.*
    *More searching yields iDevices hacked to run flash.*
    *…including the iPad, which can run Flash just fine, Steve just doesn’t want it to*

    Only takes a minute to fact-check this stuff, people.

  15. Microsoft: HTML5 is the Web’s Future

    “The Future of the Web is HTML5,” Microsoft declared. The software giant, in throwing its weight behind the Apple-approved standard, also announced its upcoming Internet Explorer 9 will not use Adobe Flash for video playback.

    “Microsoft is deeply engaged in the HTML5 process with the W3C,” the Redmond, Wash.-based company announced in on its Internet Explorer blog. “HTML5 will be very important in advancing rich, interactive web applications and site design,” IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch adds.

    Although Microsoft describes HTML5’s H.264 video standard as permitting broader use of consumer video, the software maker did not completely dismiss Flash. Flash remains “an important part of delivering a good consumer experience on today’s web,” the company announced.

    Microsoft’s announcement it will abandon Flash video support may have overshadowed Adobe’s release of CS5 earlier today. Apple owners comprise nearly half of CS5 sales, the Cupertino, Calif. company claims.

    The comments by Microsoft come a day after Apple CEO Steve Jobs outlined his objections to the Adobe software. Thursday, Jobs said his Cupertino, Calif. company and Adobe had “grown apart” and that Apple owners still have a wealth of options without Flash.

    “Flash is no longer necessary” to watch video or other multimedia, he argues in an open letter entitled “Thoughts on Flash.”

  16. @JoblessPunk

    It becomes a bit silly discussing that something will not work when the fact is that it is working.
    Most websites can be used on a touch device despite the fact that they are using a technology not originally designed to hande touch, and in the rare cases where the site depends on rollovers it’s usually a very easy change.

    Regarding gestures and multitouch Flash is now capabable of handing that as well, unlike HTML5 where the standard for muti-touch has not yet been defined.

    And why is what goes on in the app store Apples own discussion?
    I care about freedom to do what I want with my devices and that companies do not dictate what information I should be able to access.
    Hence I really dislike Apple, and will speak up against them as much as possible.
    Basically I don’t share your vision that consumers has to be passive drones accepting whatever treatment corporations like to give them.
    The idea that it’s their store and hence you cannot complain about it shows a mentality which IMO is a bit scary.

    It’s not Apples store, it’s the customers store. It’s made for them and it’s they who use it and fund it. Apple is just in charge of looking after it for the customers and should be told if they are doing a bad job.

    Not a surpise that MS also likes to collect royalties for H.264 since they are one of the licensors together with Apple.
    With neither IE or Safari supporting alternative codecs H.264 will be sure to dominate online video.

  17. @Leo

    I see what your saying, and agree.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but for the multitouch interface you use JavaScript to define what to do, Not HTML5.

    Again, correct me if I’m wrong. But is there any “legal” fully open online mobile store with any of the smart phones out there? I don’t think Android or any other store is as open as you are striving for.

    I’m totally with you with having it open and not being “passive drones”, but trying to make a mountain move is going to be really hard to do. I don’t like how closed there App store is, but it will never change. Thus, Cydia and jailbreaking an iPhone or any of the iFamily is the best of both worlds. But asking Apple to allow users to open there OS straight out of the box is a ridiculous thing to strive for.

  18. @JoblessPunk

    It’s very confusing with the terminology and HTML5 is many times used to describe the combination of markup, scripting and rendering. But HTML5 is still the name for a hypertext markup that does not do any scripting or rendering. Scripting is done with JS, rendering is done using the canvas for graphics and using a decoder in the browser for video.
    So in a sense it’s similar to the earlier flash killers, DHTML och AJAX. It’s a mix of JS and HTML, but this time with a lot of more new tricks, most notably the canvas and video tags.

    But to answer you question, multitouch is not yet part of the HTML5 specification. So currently you do not make multitouch interfaces with HTML5, unless you target an experimental version of a browser with an implementation that is not part of of the specification.

    And the issue about the app store is not that it has to be fully open. I think Apple has every right to set standards for their store, even if banning political satire is a bit of an odd policy.
    The main problem is that you are not allowed to distribute apps any other way than trough their store.
    If I like political satire apps, I don’t mind that Apple does not sell them. They can tell me that I cannot buy them from Apple, but it’s IMO a bit scary scenario with platforms under total control by a single manufacturer which does things like banning political satire.
    It should not be up to an ISP, software or device manufacturer what information or media I can access.

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