Apple, Flash, and Bullshit

On Jan 30, 2010, at 11:58 PM, Your Friend wrote:

Just a quick little snippet from an apple town hall that rings true to me — whenever [my wife]’s CPU goes crazy and starts overheating it’s because of a website w/ flash content…

As for Adobe, Jobs said they are lazy and Jobs blames Adobe for a buggy implementation of Flash on the Mac as one of the reasons they won’t support it.

Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.

Those comments are bullshit.

  1. Regarding speed — Flash now supports hardware acceleration, but Windows is the only OS with hooks for it. Video would be much much quicker if it could use the Mac’s hardware acceleration. Counterargument is Apple should be allowed full control of their hardware and not have to expose access to it, but I don’t buy it. How do games access the video chip?1
  2. Regarding bugginess — Chrome and the current Safari are architected such that if a plug-in crashes, the whole browser does not go down. Firefox will eventually be like this too. Arguing Flash can cause a Mac to crash just makes the Mac sound poorly architected, and it’s not.

There is a reasonable story I’ve read for not supporting Flash (or any popular third party plug-in): the desire for more agile control over the OS. For example, Apple is moving to an entirely 64 bit OS, but Flash is only 32 bit. This means in order to ship a 64 bit Safari they had to write a sandboxed plug-in system that 32 bit apps could run in.2 However, they really don’t want to deal with this crap on iPhone OS. Imagine if they want to support a different mobile processor architecture? They want to compile and go, not have to wait for some other company to port their ware.

There’s a pretty good article that covers much of this by pro-Apple3 John Gruber.

But let’s focus on the statement about the future:

No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.

Jobs is referring to the HTML5 <video> tag. This gives a simple, non-Flash based way for browsers to know when to show video. Earlier drafts of HTML5 also specified using Ogg Theora as the video codec. Theora provides a patent unencumbered, open source implementation anyone can use. Basically, in 2007 HTML5 solved the problem of how everyone could watch video on the web without all the problems Flash brings. But Theora was pulled out of the spec in large part due to Apple (and Nokia) weakly arguing about submarine patents. When it comes down to it, Apple cares far more about media and content control than fast, bug-free video. They’re backing a DRM enabled codec over a working web. Performance issues and bugs are a red herring.

  1. Uses of Flash go far beyond just video, but really, video is the main way we experience Flash. If all those embedded videos didn’t suck up all that processing power, there would probably be a lot less complaining. []
  2. One could argue this was a good thing do, regardless. []
  3. Fanboy :-) []