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Development : Debate Rages Over Apple Banning Flash Applications
Posted by Gene Amtower on 2010/5/3 19:11:00 (2419 reads)

Apple has banned Flash, and all web applications written for it, from running on the iPhone, effectively eliminating any Flash-based content from reaching those consumers using an Apple smartphone. Does this decision by Apple really matter to anyone?

The answer may very well depend on whether you are a web application developer or a consumer. As a consumer, you may understandably feel left out when you cannot access content on a website that was developed as a Flash application. In that case, you will have no other option but to move on to other web content - hopefully your need to view that particular info was not critical. On the other hand, web developers may feel isolated from potential visitors to their site - again, hopefully reaching these potential visitors is not critical.

Obviously, this situation only occurs when developers choose to develop content as Flash-based applications. Maybe there are good reasons for this decision, but certainly they must be weighed carefully. Even some PC users don't have Flash installed on their computer, and asking them to download and install Flash may mean they move on to other web sites. If access to your site content is important and you need your content to be available to any visitors without boundaries, Flash may not be the best option, especially after the Apple ban on Flash.

In my opinion, web developers fall into several different camps. First, there are web developers who create web applications in an embedded application tool such as Flash. Similar embedded application tools include Silverlight, and the common factor in all of them is that they enable standard web browsers to view content created specifically for these tools, and this content is not available if you have not installed the software to support them within your web browser. Maybe Flash offers a visual presentation that can't be achieved with standard web methods. Possibly the content is for a specific set of clients who demand a certain visual style only available through Flash. Some developers may even choose Flash for development because it's the easiest way they know to create and manage content. If a developer creates content as a Flash application, they should understand and accept any limitations this creates on users.

Secondly, there are web developers who only use standard web development methods because they don't know or understand the benefits of Flash-based development. Maybe their content is not as well presented as it might be with Flash-based content. Whether or not they are missing out on opportunities to reach consumers with appropriate content might be debatable, but for whatever reason, Flash is not even on their radar.

Finally, one last group of developers knows that Flash technology is available and understands how it might enable a smoother presentation of content; however, for them reaching all the potential visitors that happen upon their website is more important than being the slickest. For them, it ultimately comes down to developing for the potentially lowest capability visitor. Banks don't use Flash technology for online banking sites because they don't want to introduce a barrier to usage for their bank customers. If the content on a site is important enough that it must reach the widest possible audience, then using Flash or any other similar embedded application tool presents an unwanted barrier. This group of developers avoids the latest technologies because they know not everyone has the newest computer loaded with the latest gadgets and tools. Access to their content is more important than anything else.

So, does it matter than Apple is banning Flash-based applications? If you are a consumer, then you may have to wait until later to view Flash content on a computer with Flash capability, or just move on to web content that does not depend on Flash. Hopefully, the information is not important enough to impact your ability to accomplish whatever task brought you there in the first place. But if you are a web developer, you should already understand the potential limitation for consumers who either refuse to install Flash or just don't know enough to install it. Having this limitation for users of Apple devices is no different than for the group of consumers on PC's who don't have Flash either. Hopefully, your site content is not specifically focused on Apple products or you may find you have no audience at all.

If you are talking with a web developer about creating site content for you, make sure to discuss these limitations with them to insure the goals for your website are considered in any decision for or against embedded application technologies such as Flash. If they don't want to discuss these issues or refuse to develop anything other than Flash-based applications, they may not be putting enough priority on your requirements. Consider finding another web developer that will evaluate your needs and goals without prejudice.

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