Apple Computer has often been criticized for not supporting Adobe Flash® on its mobile devices. In April 2010, Apple Computer’s CEO Steve Jobs published an open letter explaining his reasons, and immediately set off a debate about the role of Flash on the Internet.

A response from Adobe strongly defended Flash, but more recently other important industry figures have joined the debate, and generally predicted the long-term demise of Adobe’s proprietary Flash technology in favor of the industry-standard HTML5 and CSS3. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Mozilla, Opera, and a many smaller companies have made public commitments to supporting these new standards.

Indeed, Mozilla VP Jay Sullivan went so far as calling Adobe Flash a “plug-in prison.”

The criticisms of Flash include the following:

  • Flash is a proprietary technology that flies in the face of open Internet standards. The browser Back button, history mechanism, and bookmarks don’t work properly on Flash websites.
  • Flash places heavy demands on system resources, especially on mobile devices.
  • Flash is unstable, and can cause browser and even OS crashes.
  • Flash has many security flaws, and Adobe is forced the issue frequent patches. As recently as March 15,, Adobe announced a security flaw that could allow malicious hackers to gain control of a computer or smart phone.
  • Adobe has a hidden local storage mechanism, called Local Shared Objects (LSO), which is not controlled by browser cookie settings.
  • Search engines can’t fully index Flash content, making Flash sites hard to find by web searchers.

Alternatives to Flash

With the evolution of web standards (HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, AJAX, and H.264 video), it’s now possible to build rich, interactive web pages and web applications, without the problems of Flash. In fact, compliance with the HTML5 and CSS3 standards has become a kind of bragging competition for browser manufacturers, with the newest versions Safari, FireFox, Opera, Chrome and Internet Explorer each claiming to be the most compliant.

There’s a growing incentive for web designers to build Flash-Free websites based on open standards, largely due to the huge market opportunity presented by Apples iPhones and iPads, which do not run Flash.

Flash will certainly not vanish overnight, but today it’s quite clear that the future of web development belongs to HTML5 and open web standards.


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