Decoding Flash on YouTube, no longer the solution

A friend sent me a music video last night on twitter, which when I went to watch on my iPad, both within Tweetbot and in the YouTube app, couldn’t be enjoyed.

Errors varied from "The content holder did not make this available on mobile. Add to your playlist to watch on a PC" in the Tweetbot WebKit browser to "Not available on this platform" in the app. (The fact that, for many, the iPad is their PC probably doesn’t occur to the denizens of Google towers, perhaps?)

Coincidentally, I was listening to John Gruber’s The Talk Show at the time where he and software developer Daniel Jalkut were reminiscing with some disdain, as John can be wont to do, about the time when Flash ruled everything on the web. From Kids games to restaurant menus.

Now I don’t know if the reason why that They Might be Giants video was unplayable on my iPad was because it was encoded in Flash or because of the intransigence of the rights holder, but it reminded me of the days, before the iPad, when the Internet, games and so many other things were riddled with Flash, just because.

  • Just because that’s what YouTube used.
  • Just because the software developer you contracted knew how to use it.
  • Just because all the windows computers had it installed.

I see far too many examples, when it comes to technology, where the technology solution is allowed to define the problem, despite some of the best customer experiences often being where the technology underpinning the products are opaque to the user.

I know that Flash was a great solution for many problems, and in many ways still is. I also know that I daily, thank the iPad for helping kill its use in places where it didn’t belong and encourage providers to consider alternative, better solutions to problems customers have.

Update: I should probably be clear that, while I’m using the link and video I refer to in this post as an example of a bad user experience, I don’t know if that specific issue is caused by Flash or not. Here’s a possible workaround for the mobile site, though that won’t work on the YouTube app on the iPad.


Ars Technica are reporting on an “unethical” HTML video copy protection proposal drawing criticism from W3C reps.

Mozilla’s Robert O’Callahan warned that the pressure to provide DRM in browsers might lead to a situation where major browser vendors and content providers attempt to push forward a suboptimal solution without considering the implications for other major stakeholders.

They prefer Flash because it supports DRM, but see the web going HTML5. And are now trying to patch DRM into the solution to protect their position.

Note the W3C stakeholders who are promoting this.


Is there some irony that the Occupy HTML people don’t even use Flash to promote their message?

Have they embraced the spirit of reality and compromise especially considering the following mea culpa?

…it crashes a lot…It requires constant security updates…It doesn’t work well on most mobile devices…It’s a content plugin, developed during the era of closed standards and unilateral corporate control of web technology.

Or perhaps it’s the greatest troll piece ever?

Wish I had a Toshiba Tablet so I could enjoy the “entire internet”

In an interesting marketing strategy, Toshiba have decided to only promote their upcoming Android tablet using Flash.

I understand many corporations still don’t include Flash as part of their standard operating environment. So the accessible alt screen, if you are an interested potential customer who works in a corporate environment, might become a horrible reminder of your daily torture where you cannot even play games on Steam.

Toshiba's Alt screen for customers  without Flash installed

Toshiba's Alt screen for customers without Flash installed

While its good they included an alt-screen, imagine if web developers provided information not actually referring to the content for alt-images back in the day. The equivalent of what they are saying, 1995 style would be:

There’s an image here, you really should buy browser X which supports images.

If we accept Flash as a de-facto standard, why shouldn’t they abide by the same rules for providing support for non-supported environments/accessibility requirements as for other types of “standard” web content?

The fact the Toshiba tablet isn’t actually available to buy or indeed use today, means this type of content would be better served after they had a product on sale in stores right now. As of now, I guess I need to wait until the Toshiba Tablet becomes available before I can “enjoy the entire internet”.

UPDATE: Seems the new Chrome for Android excludes Flash, so perhaps all those people who purchased the Toshiba Tablet might feel a little shortchanged when they upgrade to Android 4. Even though it is all apparently Adobe’s fault.

Open: Google’s lipstick on a pig

Today Google informed us of their decision to drop support for H.264 Video Encoding in future builds of Chrome. Because I’ve been been involved in Product Development in one form or another for the best part of 15 years, I’m well aware it is often harder to decide what to leave out of the feature set than what to include. Competing requirements from multiple stakeholders are Continue reading

The habit of prioritising Flash over HTML5 video

John Gruber has an opinion in his piece showing how to load HTML5 video instead of Flash in Safari on OSX.

That this works for so many sites shows that Safari on Mac OS X is perfectly capable of playing a lot of video on the web that seemingly requires Flash. Web developers should start serving video via the HTML5 <video> tag by default, and fall back to flash if the <video> tag isn’t supported.

It’s pretty clear Safari is a tiny proportion of the browser market, but what would be the impact if webservers took his advice globally? On other browsers?

On Adobe’s share price?