Myriad are the complaints from developers and consumers who have had to deal with wonky Flash programming. But Apple has drawn a line in the sand with its refusal to support Flash on its mobile products, and the repurcussions are continue to be felt.

Flash currently flourishes online, but more and more companies are opting out of using it. First a few publishers came out with iPad friendly websites. And now the Open Video Alliance, which includes Mozilla, Kaltura, and Yale Law School, has announced plans to get video on Wikipedia – Flash-free.

Apple is notoriously opposed to Flash and refuses to support the animation software on the iPhone or iPad. Steve Jobs went so far as to tell the Wall Street Journal that Flash enabled iPhones and iPads would only have a 1.5 hour battery life.

For companies that rely heavily on Flash, abandoning it seems like a lot of work. But that is what appears to be happening.

The Journal uses Flash for all types of things — from video to its slide shows and infographics. And Jobs' admonishment appears to have worked on the company's developers.

This month, the paper announced that it would be catering taking Flash programming off its homepage and elsewhere. And other publishers, from Conde Nast to NPR are designing websites without Flash to be viewed on the iPad and other devices.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to increase usage of its Silverlight player as a Flash alternative. Sites like the U.K.'s Hulu alternative MSN Video Player and March Madness On Demand rely on Silverlight to stream video. And other sites are shedding Flash as well. Virgin America, for example, has announced that it will remove all Flash content from its site so that iPhone users can access it.

Adobe claims that 85% of websites currently use Flash, but more and more web creators are opting out of the multimedia platform. Not necessarily because of Apple's decision, but also because increasingly, consumers access the internet from mobile phones. Even if they're not using iPhones, mobile is a much more fickle environment for viewing content.

If there's a Flash alternative that uses less memory than Flash to convey images and content in the mobile environment, people are going to use it.

Image: Open Video Alliance

Meghan Keane

Published 18 March, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (3)


John Dowdell

Howdy, Wikipedia has been specifying video submissions in Ogg Theora format since 2005. Along with the Internet Archive, they were early adopters/mandaters of the format.

What's new this week is the campaign to actually get people to contribute video in those formats. They've documented a workflow to doing so.

Many of the other sites you mention are working with Adobe to bring their existing production workflows to closed, proprietary systems like the Apple stack. The experience may not be as good, but it's important to be accessible to minorities, even those who willingly impose restrictions on themselves. (Yes, I'm indulging in a bit of counter-snark here.... ;-)

Counter to your conclusion, it looks like more and more people who make actual business decisions are converging on Flash as the neutral, lockin-free way to reach people on various device types, various device brands, various service brands. Apple's decisions seem to have helped increase the move to Flash, as paradoxical as that might first seem.


over 8 years ago



As John Dowdell's already noted, Ogg and video have been around on Wikipedia for ages—but video has always been impractical and nonstandard on the Internet, and it's only with HTML5 that we may see some practical change to this.

The campaign for video on Wikipedia is in preparation for something more interesting: online video *editing*. Essentially, it makes sense for video on Wikipedia to be as collaborative as the basic text that's the mainstay of the site. The Wikimedia Foundation has been working with another organization, Kaltura, to make that a reality.

For all that, Flash vs. non-Flash is tangential to the discussion. Wikimedia doesn't use Flash for precisely one reason: Flash is not free software. Yes, it's free to get a browser plugin, but the underlying intellectual property means that Adobe gets a certain amount of control over what is otherwise completely free video.

Wikimedia (and thus Wikipedia) is committed to using free software. This means both "free as in beer" and "free as in speech": Flash and H.264 are both currently "free as in beer" for most end-user purposes but the proprietary nature of the formats means that they're not quite "free as in speech". If either Flash or H.264 were to become open standards, I'm quite sure Wikimedia/Wikipedia would embrace them as useful tools.

So in other words, Flash vs. non-Flash has never been the issue: it's free vs. non-free. The same goes for many other format arguments. Can the Internet really be open if any single organization can control one of its major forms of media?

over 8 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

I suggest Adobe make Flash open source code, quickly. That is the only way it will survive in the long-term, and they can still be leaders of the project. But do they read this blog? :-)

about 8 years ago

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