Why Flash Is A Bad Idea For The iPad

There's been a lot of ink spilled over the pros and cons of Adobe's Flash, and in particular whether its exclusion from Apple's almost-here iPad is a good or bad thing. Much of that discussion has looked at the changing relationship between Apple and Adobe, but ignored a much more fundamental issue: Flash on a touchscreen device is a bad idea, anyway.

As developer Morgan Adams points out in a post on the RoughlyDrafted blog, Flash often assumes that the device being used can distinguish between something being hovered over with a mouse and actually clicked on — something that can't be done on the iPad or any other touch device:

Even if slow performance, battery drain and crashes weren’t problems with Flash (and they truly are), nothing can give users of any touchscreen, from any company, an acceptable experience with today’s Flash sites. The thing so many complainers want is simply an impossibility.

That doesn't mean that ceding control of the entire development environment to Apple is necessarily a good alternative, but it does remind us that some technologies will never work well together no matter how useful we think they might be.

An Adobe Flash developer on why the iPad can’t use Flash [Roughly Drafted via Mark Pesce]


    This is total rubbish, on nokia's new N900 they have worked out how to use the hover by dragging a cursor from the side of the screen if need be.

    Works just fine

      I'm all for Flash on a touchscreen device as long as it doesn't destroy the navigational experience but, from my point of view, having to use any kind of cursor on a touchscreen device definitely ruins it for me.

        On N900 there is no cursor. You swipe the screen in the lower left corner which makes a cursor button appear. Pressing this button locks the position of the web browser. This is handy when you wish to direct your touch input to the web component (for example flash).

    The HTC Android phones have Touch screen interfaces and flash works, I was using it to view and flash interactive sports scoreboard (cricket) and it worked fine, of course you can't hover but to suggest that flash is useless without hover is absurd? I could tap on the items where I hovered on the desktop to get the info I need. Am I wrong or does HTML 5 support a hover? Does this make it useless on the ipad? On this very page the share icon expands with a hover, does that make this page not fit for the ipad?

      Definitely. To suggest such an idea is preposterous.

      Your completely right, this isn't about hovering. It's about apple not wanting to support adobe and not wanting to support anything which steve can't get up and demonstrate with a single flick of his hand (boom).


    Flash, or any other plugin like Silverlight, is not on the iPhone or iPad because Apple can't monetize plugin content in the browser - no other reason.

    If Flash didn't suck then Flash blockers wouldn't exist.

      Flash doesn't suck. Flash ads suck. That's why there are Flash blockers.
      Once HTML 5 capable browsers reach a large enough user base, the advertisers will move to just as annoying ads in HTML 5. Then the Flash blockers will not block ads any more and the ads won't be able to be blocked by such simple means.

    The Appstore has 100,000+ Apps in it that work fine without a mouseDown equivalent, and despite all the rules about what you are and are not allowed to do, they develop apps for the iPhone.

    Even though safari has full CSS 2.1 and then some support, and can render most if not all web pages fine, people still make mobile versions, i don't see how they wouldn't make mobile compatible flash without mousedown.

    Android and Windows mobile have flash too, so your argument is invalid.

    I don't like flat contradiction at all, but that's really just wrong. The issue shouldn't be whether or not it would be lovely on the ipad. The issue is that you don't have the choice to begin with. They should support it and let flash developers deal with the issues then presented.

    OMG... most ignorant thing I've read today. LOL

    It's not that Flash can't do Touch, it's that the iPad can't do hover.

    What the article should say is the majority of *existing* flash applications that rely on 'hover' don't support a touch interface.

    This doesn't mean it cannot be done, it just means that developers need to adjust to be iPhone/Touch/Pad friendly - get some credibility Lifehacker and remove this article before you embarrass yourselves further.

    Hint: Check out the Adobe CS5 feature set.

      ..if i might add also

      What about (non-interactive) Animations?

      What about Javascript mouseover? Lets nerf Javascript on the iPad too while we're at it. hahaha what a joke.

        Not only animations but games and other flash applications that don't require hover. The lack of a keyboard seems more of a problem here.

        Why not just put flash on the Apple products and let developers figure it out? The answer is what someone else posted; Apple gets nothing in return for putting flash on their products.

    This is totally dimwitted. Hover is only crucial in rare circumstances and then it can be worked around in those few cases. Stooopid.

    The real reason is that Apple feels that these 3rd party plugins (and development tools) detract from the Apple experience - whether this opinion is right or wrong - will be decided by the consumers of these devices.

    However as a developer I certainly do not want to hear my CEO say they cannot view our sites on their iphone - and as developers we should always be considering progressive enhancement with everything we publish and offer alternatives when flash is not available or disabled.

    Not doing so and following a personal opinion of whether I use flash or not, may cause a loss of revenue - not to mention it is a bad development practise and career suicide.

    You can hover and left-click easily on the N900. Personally, i'd rather have full web than apps. But that's just me!

    This must be a really great developer who comments, "this is simply an impossibility."

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