If you've been reading the newspaper technology lift outs and tech blogs recently, you would have noticed that the web-o-sphere is all a flutter about Adobe Flash and its future.
So why is everyone talking about Flash?
Because only about two weeks ago Apple announced a brand new product called the iPad. The iPad is a 10 inch tablet PC that runs the iPhone operating system.
"What does this have to do with Flash?" I hear you ask. Well the iPhone (and now the iPad) has been famous for not supporting Flash because according to Apple, Flash is the single largest cause of crashes on the Mac and consumes way too much CPU . In fact, there seems to be a bit of a feud between Apple and Adobe on this issue.
For a long time we've all operated with the assumption that everyone has flash. It's become a defacto standard. According to Adobe, Flash has a 99% install base. The only problem with this statistic is that they only count Flash capable browsers – so the 40 million iPhones out in the world have no bearing on this as they don't support Flash.
So what does this mean? In short, we can no longer rely on people having flash installed.
Wait a minute. So what if people with iPhones can't use Flash? There are plenty of mobile devices that do support it. After all, iPhones only have 15% of the smartphone market. Why should we change the way we deliver content because of just one device? Namely because the iPhone is responsible for 50 times more search requests on Google than any other mobile handset Google; AT&T shocked by iPhone usage). So while there are plenty of smartphones capable of browsing the web, it looks like no one is really using them to do just that.
Having said all this Peter-Paul Koch of Quirksmode argues that we shouldn't focus on the iPhone when developing mobile content and I completely agree. The web is for everyone, not just those using a particular browser. Remember the days when web developers would code for Internet Explorer because "that’s what everyone used"? We don't want to repeat this. The iPhones’ only saving grace is that it uses WebKit as its rendering engine which – as any web developer should know – is one of the most standards-compliant web page rendering engines out there. A lot of the other browsers (eg Internet Explorer) are still playing catch up when it comes to matching WebKit on standards compliance.
But what does this have to do with Flash? Well we've known for a long time that Flash is not a great platform for delivering accessible content. It has a whole raft of deficiencies that make it terrible for disabled people and search engines. If the web is for everyone then Flash isn't really the medium by which to deliver content. The fact that there are 40 million mobile devices that don't support Flash only reinforces this sentiment.