I’ve read and heard a lot of trash talk about iPhones and iPads not supporting Flash. At first I agreed that it was silly to not include it, then I thought, what if there is a really good reason? Turns out there are plenty.
I'd like to first start by saying that the iPhone is the first phone I ever saw that delivered a true internets experience. All other phones I'd used the internets on looked like total shit and are slow. The iPhone managed to make the internets on a mobile phone amazing. All without Flash, the current standard for multimedia.
But why is Flash a defacto standard for multimedia on the internets? In '91 Apple released Quicktime, a revolution in desktop multimedia – Windows machines at the time could barely play audio files (in '92 Microsoft released Windows Video, with thousands of lines of code stolen from Quicktime). About 5 years later (during the browser wars Internets Explorer V Netscape), Microsoft made Internets Explorer incompatible with Quicktime and bundled in Flash. We had a situation where Adobe’s closed/proprietary Flash became a standard for web content because Microsoft pushed it. Apple’s Quicktime, which eventually became integral for the open MPEG4* standard, was pushed back.
Aside from the politics, there is a sound technical reason for Flash to not be included on Apple’s touch devices. Have you ever noticed those ads were you move the mouse over them and the cursor interacts with the ad? Most video sites hide the progress bar, play/pause button until the mouse cursor hovers over it. So even if Flash was installed on an iPad/iPhone none of this will work. Flash websites are built with the assumption that a mouse equipped computer is going to be looking at them. This reason alone should be enough to convince anyone.
The replacement for Flash is HTML5. Videos on HTML5 sites are encoded in a higher quality (using MPEG4), you don’t get that stupid loading thing and you can click anywhere in the video at anytime and it should just start playing. HTML5 in an open standard, meaning there is a consortium of companies who define how HTML5 will progress through the years, not one company (Adobe…). Plus no one has to pay a fee to anyone for its use (Adobe gets money for Flash).
All the big video sites are now changing over to HTML5. I’m seeing it happening now. I accidentally went to youpr0n the other day, at the top of the page it said “we’re currently recoding our entire library”. It’s the same with other similar sites. YouTube has done it, Vimeo has done it, all the big porn sites are doing it… these constitute the most popular video sites on the internets. If these sites have made the change then I can only see Flash becoming obsolete very quickly.
*This is what you’re watching when you look at a high quality video on YouTube (or any quality video site for that matter). Flash format is .flv, MPEG4 format is .mp4.