No Flash on iPad? No problem – we’ll redesign the site says NPR and others

It is fascinating to see the impact of Apple’s hostility to Adobe Flash on iPhone and now iPad.

On the one hand, it’s a gift to rival vendors such as Google, which is bundling Flash into Chrome (a contentious decision judging by the comments), and Microsoft, which has promised Flash support in Windows Phone 7, though not in the first release. These vendors can claim better Internet support than Apple, thanks to the large amount of Flash content, games and applications on the Web.

On the other hand, I’ve not seen many web sites that encourage their users not to use iPhone or iPad. Rather, those with the resources to do so are simply making their content available in ways that are iPhone/iPad compatible. There are two obvious ways to do so: either create an App, or make a Flash-free web site.

One of my favourite music sites is NPR, which is a great source of concerts and exclusive sessions, and which uses Flash for streaming. NPR’s research told it that five percent of its 26 million weekly listeners were likely to purchase an iPad. I was also intrigued to note that these purchasers consider it more of a “living space” device than something they take everywhere. Either way, they wanted to continue consuming NPR’s content.

NPR responded by taking both of the options mentioned above: a redesigned web site, optimised for touch control as well as eliminating Flash, and an iPad app that builds on an existing iPhone app.

We’re excited about this latest innovation because we think it brings us closer to capturing NPR’s unique identity on a digital platform. The iPad’s casual touch-screen navigation seems more conducive to immersive reading than even the lightest laptops. And it opens up new opportunities for casual listening.

The worrying thought for Adobe is that sites such as NPR might decide to use the Flash-free site for all browsers, instead of just those on an iPad, to save on duplicate work.

Adobe’s decision to enable native compilation to iPhone and iPad in the forthcoming Creative Suite 5 is looking increasingly significant.

Update: James Governor on Twitter says awesome! the new IE6! Good point, though how you see this depends on what you think of Flash in the first place.

Stephan Richter observes that “Judging by the comments, not many NPR users are happy that effort is wasted on supporting 5% of potential users.” There’s certainly evidence of resentment at Apple users getting preferential resources, though the fact that Apple purchasers pretty much match the dream profile for many advertisers may be a factor.

5 thoughts on “No Flash on iPad? No problem – we’ll redesign the site says NPR and others”

  1. Hi Tim, it’s hard for me to see how an Apple-optimized audio website can be used “for all browsers”… the different browser vendors haven’t yet agreed on AUDIO codecs either. Seems like we’d need a couple more shoes to drop first…?


  2. The problem is companies still trying to lock down their content, sometimes with DRM but moreso with obfuscation, so they refuse to settle on a standard way of doing it. The problem of course is once you do pick a method, people crack it and start saving the content. YouTube being a good example of how it could be done, it uses the built-in media player for playback. The only thing stopping everyone doing it that way is paranoia and greed, mainly from the people the content is licensed from.

    As always, it all boils down to piracy. The sooner they realise they can’t stop it, the sooner we get a standard method for streaming that works on everything and Flash can return to what it was good at, vector animation and interactivity, or die a long slow death.

    Flash is by no means the be all and end all as 10.1 on Linux is NOT going to support hardware accelerated video playback. Again, stupidity, because almost if not all Linux machines will already have the software necessary to play all Flash video formats – but Adobe like everyone else wants to keep full control of what you are doing. But that is getting into another argument entirely.

  3. HTML5 is an open standards replacement for flash.

    But what about the hidden side of flash? The cookies that it slips into your system that browsers don’t remove. Or the capability to use your computer’s camera and microphone? Or the long list of vulnerabilities it provides for attackers to compromise your computer?

    That for me is why we need to move away from flash. It is a security risk and provides methods to violate people’s privacy. SANS recently recommended avoiding using Adobe Acrobat because of security issues and flash is not far behind

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