Flash has jumped the shark.

So there’s been a lot of controversy lately about why Flash is not allowed on the iPhone and iPad.  Steve Jobs just published a rant about why Apple’s not going to allow it, which to me is most interesting not for the barbs he directs at Adobe, but for the vision for the future it contains.  I read it here, though I’m sure there are tons of places to see the text.

I agree with much of it.  Flash is a technology that’s been perverted by lots of bad uses of it.  There are things that it does very well, but I agree with him: HTML5 is going to kill Flash.  It will take a while, but it will definitely happen.

I hate the fact that it’s proprietary, as Jobs says.  I learned some Flash, Flex and Actionscript while I was at Burton, and it’s too bad that knowledge and time is going to languish because I’m not getting paid to be a Flash developer for my job now, and so I’ve left the platform.  There’s no fucking way I’m paying $400 for Flex Builder.  There’s also no fucking way I would do anything with Actionscript in Flash, even if it was free.  Flash is not developer friendly by any stretch.  I guess technically they have a command-line compiler and I could write Actionscript with a plain text editor, so there’s a rudimentary free path, but the productivity slowdown that would incur makes that a no go for me.

If there isn’t a free or cheap version to develop on for your platform, you will fail, and rightfully so.  As a dev, when you take on learning a new platform and API, the barrier to entry has to be low to attract people, because the default level for programming is Free Tools.  Anything more than that, and you’ve already lost all the hobbyists and small dev shops.  And Adobe’s not really sold the platform as an “Enterprise” toolset, so you don’t have the deep pockets dev market either.  Even Microsoft has a free version of Visual Studio!  I’m admittedly developer-centric, but hey, if you don’t have people building stuff for your platform, then you won’t have any good uses for it.  If there are no good uses for your platform, it will lose mindshare with users.

Designing for touch is a good point – we web developers will have to work hard on having good mobile web UIs for our sites that looks good on small displays and that work well for touch.  It’ll be a good exercise in simplicity, and in keeping Model and Controller out of the View, to use the classic paradigm.  Most iPhone apps suck anyway – they’re just websites that have native UI controls on them, which is fucking stupid to me.  Honestly, I hope good mobile websites kill the App Store.

He’s full of shit with the openness argument, though.  Sure, Safari uses WebKit, but if they could have a stranglehold on the web without outraging web developers, I have no doubt they would.  To create those games he talks about?  You have to buy a Mac, which you can only get from Apple.  You have to use Apple’s proprietary language Objective-C that NO ONE else in the world uses for anything else but Mac stuff, to make them, and you have to build them using Apple’s XCode IDE, which again, you can only get from Apple (at least it’s free once you sign up for their developer program).  And once you build your app, you can only sell it through the Apple store, IF they approve it.

The only reason Apple’s able to maintain this stranglehold is they have the hot device right now.  Developers are willing to jump through these crazy hoops because we’ve all read those stories of people who put in a few months of late nights to make an app and then quit their jobs a month after it was released because the app was quadrupling their salary.  But gold rushes never last.  Maybe Apple’s going to be able to keep putting out the next hot device for another year or two, but I doubt it.  People are fickle.

If web developers do a good job, the web will win.  As it should.  As much as I fear Google taking over the world, I agree that the web is the platform of the future.  And I plan to keep working towards building sites that point that direction, as much as possible.  I have a long way to go, as do we all…

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