Thoughts on Steve’s Thoughts on Flash

If you haven’t already seen it, yesterday His Steveness published a note on what he thinks about Adobe Flash.  I wish Steve would just man up and say, “I don’t like Flash and it’s my device so I’ll do what I want with it,” but instead we keep getting these little statements where he twists the facts in an effort to Jedi-mind-trick us into thinking it’s for our own good.  Here are my thoughts on what he had to say.

1. Open

Adobe Flash is most certainly an open format.  See the links below.  The SWF format is open, they provide and maintain an open source SDK that you can use to build flash apps, and they allow third party companies to create IDEs for developing Flash apps.  If you had enough time and resources you could develop an open source Flash player plug in for browsers.

Furthermore, claiming that the iPhone is an open platform just because it includes an application (Safari) that is capable of reading and rendering data (HTML5) that is formatted using an open standard is ridiculous.  Using this logic, when Flash is able to render HTML5, it will also become an open platform.  You could also call the Wii an open platform simply because it has a browser.

One last note, the “open video format” that Apple champions, H.264, is not at all open.  If Apple is so proud of their “openness”, why not support HTML5 and Ogg?

http://www.adobe.com/devnet/swf/
http://www.openscreenproject.org/
http://opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/flexsdk/Flex+SDK
http://www.fdt.powerflasher.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264/MPEG-4_AVC#Patent_licensing

2. Full Web

Steve uses some twisted logic here.  Just because Youtube has 40% of the videos that exist on the web, and Youtube supports HTML 5, that does not mean that 40% of the web has already converted to HTML 5.  Also, Flash is used for a lot more that just video; games, photo galleries, news tickers, data visualization, and audio players just to name a few.

3. Three in one on this one.  I’ll address them separately:

Security:

In version 9.0.115 of the Flash player there was a buffer overrun bug that could be exploited to remotely execute code.  Adobe fixed this with an update in April of 2008.  Firefox has had many such vulnerabilities before and since then, but nobody advocates against its use… Well, not yet, but maybe Apple will before long.

http://www.symantec.com/business/security_response/attacksignatures/detail.jsp?asid=22964
http://www.mozilla.org/security/known-vulnerabilities/firefox30.html

Reliability:

According to Steve: “Flash is the number one reason Macs crash”.  Now, I’m no Linus Torvalds, but I do have a degree in computer science and I’ve taken a few classes on operating systems.  From this, my understanding is that if a user-space application can crash your whole OS, you’re doing something wrong.  This is one of thing Apple likes to mock Microsoft about.

Performance:

From what I have read, part of the reason Flash support has suffered on the Mac is a lack of support from Apple.  Until recently, the Flash player has been forced to use the QuickDraw and Quartz 2D APIs for rendering, neither of which is really intended for animation.  Also, until literally this week, the Flash player has not had access to hardware accelerated H.264 decoding.

http://www.kaourantin.net/2010/02/core-animation.html
http://developer.apple.com/mac/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2267.html

Oh, and regarding Steve’s claim about never seeing Flash perform on a mobile – maybe he should have used his beloved HTML 5 to view some of these videos on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NFY_uZoMWM&feature=related
http://joshblog.net/2010/04/20/adobe-air-for-android-chroma-circuit-and-qrossfire-videos/

One other point that I would like to make is that no matter what the language/platform/technology, you cannot totally avoid poor programming.  Sure some Flash banners suck up your CPU, but it is just as easy to code an infinite loop in Javascript/HTML 5 as it is in ActionScript.

4. Battery

For the most part this is the same issue as performance except for the fact that Steve refuses to admit that Flash can be used for something other than video.

Also, while its a little late to the game, there is a hardware decoding chip for the “old” video format Steve talks about:
http://news.thomasnet.com/fullstory/Multiformat-Hardware-Decoder-offers-On2-VP6-support-567131

5. Touch

This one is ridiculous.  First of all, there are a million non-Flash websites out there with mouse over actions all over the place.  They work just fine on most mobile devices.  Second, Adobe already has a touch API in place for Flash.  Third, suggesting that recreating an entire site or application in HTML 5 is easier than modifying a few roll over behaviors in the Flash source is absurd.

6. Third Party Developer Tools == Evil ( a.k.a. !Apple == Evil )

Consider for a minute what Steve is saying here: If Apple decides to add some new capability to the iPhone, third party development tools won’t immediately support the use of that new feature, therefore they should not be allowed.

Now, by that same logic, shouldn’t they disallow practically any third party software on the Mac platform?  After all, at some point they might implement 64-bit color in OS X, and Photoshop only supports 32-bit images.  Maybe the new iMacs will support Apple 9.1 surround sound; Ableton Live doesn’t support 9.1 – it’s out!  What if Apple wants to support Open GL 5 some day?  Well better not allow all those new games about to hit the Mac via the new Steam store from Valve.  Dang, Portal 2 would have been fun on the Mac, but it wasn’t created using XCode so…

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