Discovering the Adobe vs. Apple debate

I was working in communications at The Fuller Center for Housing when the iPad came out. We quickly realized all the Flash elements in our site wouldn’t function on iPhones and iPads. At the time, that included a prominent slideshow with links to current, noteworthy events or stories from the affordable housing nonprofit’s work–probably the most compelling component of the Web site. Our communications director did some research and eventually decided to remove all Flash elements, learning they could be easily replaced with JavaScript or CSS.

Before I began the iMedia program, I had no idea there was actually a feud happening between Adobe and Apple. I thought Flash didn’t work on Apple devices for technical reasons. Since so many Web sites require Flash to run properly, and because I am learning it, I wanted to know more.

I read Steve Jobs’ “Thoughts on Flash.” He has some compelling arguments. The most convincing for me was probably the fact that it takes more energy and a longer loading time to run Flash. When a Flash element can–as I understand it–always be replaced by another type of coding, using more energy and users’ time seems wasteful.

And then I read a bit more about the feud itself, including this article that suggests Adobe has found a way to allow Flash to run on Apple products, through a ‘cheat.’ Now I’m just put off by the corporate politics apparently involved. I guess on one hand it’s nice that Apple has opened the door for alternatives to video and animation software. But on the other hand, Apple runs a higher risk than Adobe of being accused of monopolizing markets. So, the amount of power the company is wielding in this situation seems unfair.

But as my dad likes to say, life isn’t fair. And for me personally, the fairness of it all doesn’t much matter. What I want to know is how the incorporation of Flash will affect users of any Web content I hope to produce in the future. It will probably always be a question of what demographic the site is targeting.

In the case of The Fuller Center, the solution was obvious. The “cool” effect we were using Flash for was achieved through JavaScript with a little added effort and we ran a much lower risk of losing hits to our site that came from iPads and iPhones.

(Shameless plug: The Fuller Center is a really great organization that helps people afford homes by enlisting volunteer labor and providing interest-free loans. Plus they have this sweet bike ride across the country each summer where riders take part in Fuller Center projects along the way.)

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