Skip to main content

Could HTML 5 Kill Flash on the iPhone?

Well, at least kill the need for Flash on the iPhone? Daring Fireball says a simple "yes" to Yahoo! Tech's question.

The idea is that a standards based technology, open and broadly used, could make redundant proprietary and sometimes bloated and buggy plugins like Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Sun JavaFX.

Apple's Safari, including Mobile Safari on the iPhone, and Mozilla Firefox are already supporting HTML5 features. Microsoft's Internet Explorer -- so far -- isn't.

The article gives pros and cons for both sides of the debate. Since Apple is introduction the third generation of their iPhone software tomorrow, and still no Flash in sight, we likely have a good idea which way they're leaning already...

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • GAWD I hope so.
    In fact I wouldn't mind if Flash were totally obsoleted everywhere.
    With HTML5, you will at least have options to stop it dead in its tracks without totally eliminating it. Adobe's refusal to add end-user control features to Flash while handing advertisers total control of my browser earns them a ticket to oblivion IMHO.
  • HTML 5 is looking so good each second.
    As long as I got something on my phone to handle flash actions...I don't care.
  • I've been preaching it for 2 years. Finally other people are catching up.
  • end Flash everywhere, please!
  • I guess the point is completelly mistaken. I don't want Flash on iPhone to see animations and stuff like that, but to have access to websites that are ALREADY made using Flash. Flash is already available in almost every browser, including the stinky IE6, however HTML5 requires, at least for now, WebKit, which is below Firefox.
    Come on, HTML5 has nothing to do with Flash on the iPhone issue.
  • i hope so too. the less proprietary, closed-off web plug-ins the better.
  • You guys will blindly follow anything Apple does/says. The iPhone flash issue is a supernerd pissing match between Apple and Adobe, nothing else. Let's not pretend it is Apple somehow being "visionary" or something.
  • only if hulu supports html5
  • @Wesley:
    Yes, HTML5 has a lot to do with Flash on the iPhone, or more importantly the elimination of the need for Flash.
    Flash came on very fast, it went from nowhere to everywhere in less than two years, and was basically unavoidable in the first year.
    With a FREE platform to develop on, how many sites would drop Flash and its buggy expensive CPU hogging ways? My bet is that in three years, Flash will be about as common as animated gif images. Still there, but passe and disfavored.
    Yes there are sites you can't visit on the iphone. Send them email and complain. Go to on a computer you get a faceload of Flash. Go there in the iphone and it works just as well. In this economy, Ford can't afford to turn off any customers.
  • @Joe McG:
    No, Joe, you miss the whole point of the thread. I don't like Flash anywhere, and I certainly don't miss it on my iPhone.
  • Flash = stupid monkey banner ads! Only time I use flash on my desktop is YouTube, which is supported on the iPhone anyhows.
  • I could care less to have Flash on the iPhone. Got my Citrix XenApp server setup @ home with Internet Explorer published if I ever need a site with flash.
  • Howdy, you can be part of the 2% of computer users who don't use that standard Adobe Flash Player capability, if you wish. Just remove it, use a Flashblocker, whatever.
    ... or perhaps you're saying you don't want other people to use it for websites you might want to visit, might that be it? If so, then posting with your real name, so that people don't wonder whether you're Steve Jobs writing in under multiple names, might add a little persuasiveness to the pitch, just a thought.... ;-)
    (Adobe's goal here is to make it easy to publish to any screen. Most manufacturers are on board, and are working to see this happen. Apple's story is for them to tell.)
  • Until the iPhone gets 1GB of RAM, it will never run Flash. To "run flash" it means to support all websites that run Flash. Has anyone checked how much memory your browser uses after a Flash website is loaded? Does anyone realize that after about 20MB of memory usage most iPhone apps will crash?
    The iPhone will have no problem with the Flash runtime but has no chance at supporting all of the behemoth flash sites out there.
    And who cares if just the iPhone supports HTML5? No one invests serious money into a website unless it can work cross browswer. I'm looking at you, RIM.
  • Does anyone know what time 3.0 is being released tomorrow (preferably in GMT :D)
  • @John Dowdell:
    My primary concerns at the moment are:
    1) Flash cookies. These just aren't good. Hard to turn off, can re-instate deleted browser cookies, etc. makes them user hostile.
    2) Lack of an optimized OS X build of Flash. It's been years. Really. Nothing kills my MacBook batter faster than Flash. That's not acceptable on OS X on the iPhone.
    3) Malware attack vectors. Neither Acrobat nor Flash need to be data-partition executing code interpreters. We know it makes them faster and offers increased functionality, but I've had to re-install a PC twice now after PDF-based infections. Not fun.
    Right night in the battle between good and convenient, convenient is winning way too much of the time :(
  • Do you know Rene? Please :)
  • I'm speaking as a Flash/ActionScript/Flex/AIR developer. Flash IS here to stay for the long haul. 3 years till Flash is gone? It'll be 5 years before we even see an HTML5 standard! I'm a web developer, HTML5 is a great idea but it's not even on my radar. Why? Right now, I have to support IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox 3, Safari 3, Safari 4, based on my clients. Even if IE9 and Firefox 4 support HTML5 100%, how long will it take before they have close to 100% market saturation? Remember, Flash came out in 1996! Why didn't we see Flash sites all over the place until about 2005? It took that long to catch on! IE6, 7, and 8 and FF 3 will be around for years to come. It'll be a good 10 years before HTML5 is mainstream (if it ever happens... see how well XHTML caught on?) Someone got it spot on, "iPhone flash issue is a supernerd pissing match between Apple and Adobe, nothing else." I 100% agree with that and I agree with that as a supernerd who has gotten into many a pissing match. Many websites use Flash. I don't want Flash on my iPhone because I love Flash, I want Flash on my iPhone so I don't get those "you can't view this website because you don't have flash" messages -- remember when the iPhone first came out and Apple touted, "On Safari, you see the real web — not a stripped-down mobile version" they left out the "unless you're on one of the thousands of websites that uses Flash, Java, or any other client-side plugin".
  • @Joe McG
    Yes, you are missing the whole point. Like most other well-read web developers, I am a proponent of an open, standards-compliant web. Flash, Silverlight and the likes go against this - creating a closed off, non-degradable, less accessible web.
    From this standpoint, the fewer browsers that support Flash the better - regardless of their motives.
  • @iphoner
    As a developer you might care about standards, but as a developer who has clients I couldn't care less. What I care about is satisfying my clients. If I go to my clients and say "your website is 100% HTML4 and CSS 2.1 compliant" I'll get a "what does that mean?" when I tell my client "you have interactive Flash content" they say "great!" If I say "Oh I don't use Flash because it's not standard" or "Oh I don't support IE6 because it doesn't follow the standards" that's a lost sale.
  • @dman. I'm just reading your previous comment now. Totally understand your POV especially since Flash is your livelihood.
    But wouldn't it be nice to build a site and say "this site works in every browser I've ever heard of"? That's the promise of an open, standards-compliant web.
  • This is kind of funny how apple doesn't want to support flash, just like they saw mms as not useful in their iphone. What will people agree with apple next, the entire web being free and being able to download music, movies, etc... for free (legally of course) just because apple says "open and free is in?"....
  • @icebike: I agree with you, and you got my point, I just don't see how contacting every website administrator and saying that 1 person that uses a cellphone can't access it's page. iPhone is the bigger source among mobile devices, but among platforms it's insignificant and therefore I can easily get a "Fuck off" from the admin.
    I believe HTML5 is a big step, but we need to rethink how websites are made and organize things better, CSS has some very annoying issues for layout creation, HTML is old and doesn't suit webapps very well (even this new version), and JavaScript is a mess (using functions inside function to create classes?).
    I don't like Flash, but I don't think it's going down like this. You can do things with it that you simply can't under HTML, like obscure the code (in a way no SWF decompiler can read it).
  • The comments about the memory footprint of Flash are spot on. Not only is it not a viable option on the iPhone, it's barely viable on the Desktop. Flash websites break the functionality web, aren't searchable and are basically glorified videos. While I don't think the rise of HTML 5 means the demise of Flash (it has it's place: game development, RIAs, ridicules splash pages)--I'd be happy to see it go.
  • Someone should publish a performance comparison between say, HTML5 video & Flash/Silverlight/JavaFX video.
    If HTML5 video is significantly less processing intensive, it would bode well for it to be the "preferred" solution for smartphones, since less processing translates to more battery life.
  • I don't really care about alternatives to flash. I just want to be able to view content. I'm not interested on the geek off over speed and openess. The fact is a large percentage of sites have flash and we
    can't view that content because apple has decided to wage a standards war at the expense of the user experience.
  • @b1a, who wrote:
    " doesn’t want to support flash, just like they saw mms as not useful in their iphone."
    b1a, where do you get your information? please cite legitimate sources for your claim that apple "saw mms as not useful." actually, never mind -- because you don't have any sources. you're a typical, internet dweeb just shooting off at the mouth, regarding things about which you know absolutely nothing.
    it wasn't apple who didn't want mms, it was at&t who didn't want their networks bogged down by the amount of additional data that would have been generated by mms on iphones -- devices which were already data-intensive.
    next time, try researching a subject instead of making things up. (and no, i'm not affiliated with apple.)
  • The exciting news for Flash developers is that the new Packager for iPhone due to be release in Adobe Fash CS5 will allow any application or game built using Flash to be exported for use on the iPhone.
  • While it is true that the latest version of Adobe CS will allow you to export your Flash as an iPhone App, surely that means you still have to go through the draconian controls that Apple places on what apps are available for their phone?
    I agree with the sentiments of this article. The new features in HTML 5 won't oust Flash as a platform, but they will remove the need for Flash on the iPhone, because for the most part, iPhone users want Flash to watch videos. From the research I've done, the iPhone will play an H264 Mp4 video clip through the tag, which is incidentally fine for Flash player 10 as well. Ergo, you don't need to re-encode your clips, just add a tiny bit of extra code.
    I've yet to experiment with video on the iPhone, but I will be in the next couple of days. I'll post the results on my blog for anyone wanting to see how I got on, but you can probably search online and find the same information I've found as well and come to the same conclusions I did.
  • I don't think Apple is even going to allow element on their safari browser. If you try an html5 video page now it will open the quick time player. Most likely Apple will just block whichever elements in html5 they feel compete with the app store, which is the main reason you don't see flash on your iPhone.
  • I wonder how long it will be for Apple realise that the Android is starting to take more and more of the market share simply because of their reluctance to support the Flash player. HTML5 will definately be the downfall of Flash eventually, but that wont be for another 3-4 years. In the meantime the competitors may run away with the market place ala Xbox360 vs PS3.
  • I do agree with all the ideas you have introduced on your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for starters. May just you please lengthen them a little from next time? Thanks for the post.