The iPad reminded me of the strange confusion around Adobe Flash. Many were surprised that the iPad will not support flash. I can’t say that I was surprised at all. As many readers might know, the iPhone does not support flash. There actually only a few smartphones that do support flash, and only do so to a limited extent. Apple in particular, has a ax to grind with Adobe, as the flash player seems to occasionally cause system crashes in OSX. Apple feels this is a problem with Adobe’s code.
There is however some confusion about a couple of important aspects of Flash. What first comes to mind is the eye candy websites that use flash to animate all sorts of buttons and effects. Some elegantly so, and others to a ridiculous extent. Flash (and Shockwave) has been used to create many animated presentations, and applications and games as well. There is however an almost completely separate function supported by flash player, and that is video playback.
Originally, the flash player was designed to play a particular video file format known as FLV. This is a video file format specific to the Flash player. For years, this has been the method of choice for delivering video on the web. Youtube, and many similar sites, used this method for years. It of course required that you have Adobe Flash player installed on your computer. Most of you out there know all too well the prompt from your web browser, asking that you install the Flash Plugin.
There were many competitors over the years for alternate methods of online video delivery. Windows Media, Apple Quicktime, Real Media, and so on. A refreshingly new trend has however been afoot these past years, and that is the MP4 file format. Also known as Mpeg4, this actually represents a bit of a convergence. An odd thing indeed, when so many incompatible file formats and applications plague all things computerized these days. Not only does Apple support Mp4, it’s actually the chosen video format of the iPhone, and iPod touch. This was no doubt a factor that influenced the move towards mp4 video delivery that Youtube now embraces.
Where does Flash come in? As it turns out, as of version 9, Adobe flash player supports playback of mp4 files via a web page. The great thing about this is no additional plug-in is required to play the video. That is, if you have flash player installed, and of course that your device supports flash. While I do have some background in web development, I’m hardly a programmer. I wonder why that mp4 video playback via the flash player can’t be supported alone, and simply disable all of the other Flash functionality? Seems to me, this just throws the baby out with the bathwater.