iPad without Flash is Google without IE6


Apple with Flash, Google with Internet Explorer 6

Of all the criticisms of the iPad that have been thrown around since it's launch barely a few days ago, the loudest seems to be the lack of Flash support. I'm going to get into trouble with a lot of people for saying this, but I consider it a feature, and on par with Google ditching support for Internet Explorer 6 on some of their sites.

Flash never liked Apple anyway

It's no secret Adobe has let Flash languish on the Mac for a long, long time, and they don't even acknowledge the existence of operating systems other than Windows, Mac or 32bit Linux (last time I checked a few years ago even 64bit Linux versions were unavailable). On my non-Mac machines that all run FreeBSD, if I wanted to view Flash content I needed to run the Linux version of Flash using the binary compatibility layer, and even then it was buggy even by Flash's poor standards. As a result I started avoiding sites that use Flash, and now I don't use it. Period.

In high school in 2004 I remember working closely with a guy a few grades below me on a site for the school newspaper and he insisted we use Flash. Even then despite the lack of HTML5 I loathed it because sites rendered in it were confusing, broke basic browser behaviour, didn't index properly and were more often than not ugly as heck. To be fair I levelled the same criticisms against Ajax sites back in 2007, but at least in those cases Ajax doesn't rely on a closed, slow, buggy plugin that is bad enough on the desktop let alone a portable tablet device, and the situation has since improved.

Flash must die!

Then of course there are the security and privacy concerns with Flash that the mainstream media and most pundits are refusing to discuss or even acknowledge. Flash cookies in particular are an extremely nasty invasion of privacy that intentionally and misleadingly sidestep all the preferences users have set with regards to sites remembering information about them. It's like somebody finiding a loophole in your restraining order against them that says they can photograph you from their car provided they use film instead of memory cards and wear a Neelix mask.

I like Apple products because they're simple, elegant and just work, but I'm not afraid to call them out when they do something silly. There are a lot of silly things about this iPad, but one of them is not the lack of Flash support.

If anything I applaud Apple for taking a stand by not putting Flash in their iPhone OS in much the same way I applaud Google for no longer supporting Internet Explorer 6 on many of their sites. Replace many of the arguments people make about the iPad and Flash with Google and Internet Explorer 6 (Apple should make it an option, some sites still need it) and the argument quickly falls apart, or at the very least develops some serious cracks in their credibility.

Sidenotes at the… bottom

One sidenote of note (hah!), how would a dodgy Flash application that requires a mouse to hover over it to reveal aspects of its hidden interface and/or to accept input work on a multi touch interface, without a mouse? It makes no sense.

Sidenote two, more of an observation: the stigma attached to sites that not only use Flash but require it to function has existed for a long time now — I still remember people in 2000 complaining about sites that required Flash and without an alternative.

And as another sidenote, does anyone else find it ironic that many of the people complaining the iPad doesn't have Flash are also the ones who say the iPad is too "closed"? Double standards much? Double standards sounds like a great name for a pastry shop that sells savoury cakes.

I'm done ranting now, whew! Time to have a cup of green tea.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person in bios. Hi!

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