Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple computers has stated in this letter, that flash will not be on the next generation of mobile computers from Apple, and will likely never be. he cited a few good reasons, and a few not-so-good reasons.  What does that mean to you the website owner, and to me, the developer. Not much, but that is what were going to explore. 

The reasons:

To summerize these are the reasons he gives (as I interpret them) and my thoughts of how they effect you, the site owner.

  • The proprietary-ness of flash. This is true, any new flash player would have to come from Adobe, and while they are quick to make new versions at times, they can also be very slow. I don’t know of any mobile device that has flash support, and support for flash in Mac and Linux can be dodggy at times. What this means to you is that websites should not be created that depend on flash for critical function. Navigation, and core user interaction should not be done using flash. This is an old rule, but one people sometimes forget. Even Adobe themselves do not use flash for navigation or critical user interaction. 
  • The Full Web. Honestly I think this is more of a “but we can do this” then an actual point. But do keep in mind that most of the animations and such that you would normally associate with flash can be done in JavaScript, and done in a manor that any browser can still use the site, instead of just the ones with flash plugins installed.
  • Reliability, security and performance. This is just plain true. Flash in most browsers is unstable at best. Again keeping your critical interactions out of flash helps avoid this problem, but if your website crashes someone’s computer every time they his the "more info’ page, they will stop hitting that page. 
  • Battery Life. Not really our concern, but CPU usage can be in a heavy web app. Though testing should cover this, but for us this has no barring on you as the client. 
  • Touch. Steve Jobs states a good case for touch devices like the iPad and iPod, but it’s also true (for us non-Apple CEOs) the we make considerations for interfaces that don’t use the mouse, or don’t have a keyboard. With more and more people using phones to access the web, and the increased number pf people running on tablets, or touch screens, the ability to hover or click is not a given anymore. This is a valid point and one that should be considered for every web interface, not just in relation to flash. 
  • Because Apple wants it that way. Again, doesn’t really effect us, but his main case is that Flash is intended to make the best cross-platform app and not the best Apple product app. It’s valid, but doesn’t effect us when building a site.  Some things to keep in mind though, specially for heavy applications, users expect things in a certain place. Menus on top, Save buttons on the bottom. Be careful when breaking those rules-of-thumb or you could wind up with a lot of unhappy end users. 

What it really means:

Nothing to drastic. You, as a website owner need to be aware that flash will not work on iPads, iPods, iPhones, or other iThings, but as long as you follow simple rules about flash usage you should be fine. 

Flash usage rules:

  1. Is there a more standard way, if there is do it.
  2. Don’t load critical site functions into flash. Take a look at You-Tube, they use flash for videos, but everything else is javascript.
  3. Never use flash for navigation, not only can it leave you users without the ability to navigate the site, search engines can’t read it.
  4. Flash should be used sparing, if at all. Not just because of Apple, but because it uses more memory and CPU power then normal html. Try to keep the instances of flash to 1 or 2 per page, if you need more then that re-think your design.

Some good things to use flash for:

Ok, so we have bashed flash a bit, but there are some good things to use it for.

  • Video playback. Sure other formats work, but remember the 90s and all the embed tags and the horrid mess with windows media player/quick time. 
  • Games, take a look at some flash gaming sites. It’s a great language for browser based games. 

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