Apples actual response to the Flash issue

Peter Alcibiades palcibiades-first at yahoo.co.uk
Sat May 1 03:15:18 EDT 2010


The article starts out by endorsing Jobs' criticism of Flash and agreeing
with him that the problem with Flash is that it is proprietary, and that an
Internet in which much of the content is coded in a proprietary format which
requires a particular software package from one vendor to access it, is a
bad thing.

By 'a bad thing' people who make this argument usually mean that an outcome
may result from the rational, informed and independent choices of the
individuals who make up a society.  But were they collectively to be asked
whether it they like or approve of it or prefer it, they would say no.  The
ensemble of choices rational for the indiviiduals, when taken as a whole,
diminishes utility for all.  We might prefer there to be clean fuel
regulations, but if there are not any, coal is cheaper and its rational for
us as individuals to burn it, because going to coke is more expensive for
us, and will make no difference to total emissions.

Now consider revWeb.  Jobs would have the same objection to it.  If it were
simply an easy and cheap way to write apps which run in a browser, that
would be fine.  But if it were to get out and be, like Flash, a medium in
which much public Internet content was coded, everyone would have to install
the revWeb plug-in, and that would be only available from one vendor.  Both
Jobs and the EFF would object to this even if, as with Flash, its adoption
resulted from free individual choices by content developers and web users.

Jobs is then strongly critical of cross-platform development suites.  Rev
is, or is trying to be, fully cross platform, and revWeb makes it cross
platform in spades:  it makes it possible to compile to a browser
application, as well as a standalone desktop application.  So this is cross
platform between desktop and web browser app, and it also tries to be cross
platform across browsers, and finally it is cross-platform in the
traditional sense, between different operating systems.

The article points out that the grounds on which Jobs objects to Flash are
also applicable to much of Apple's own conduct, and it points out in
addition that the real problem for Jobs with cross platform development
tools is that they allow 'write once run everywhere', whereas what Jobs
would like is to have total control over applications and content on 'his'
platform, and so would like to have writing for Apple be a dedicated
exercise tailored to their platform.  Rev is clearly in the sights on this
one.

There is an odd idea, in some recent defenses of Apple, and in the comments
on Ars, that the only legitimate reply to a company doing something whose
effects on society one does not approve of, as a citizen, is to refrain from
buying their products.  This makes as much sense as the idea that if one
disapproves of the potentially catastrophic effect of the mass adoption of
financial derivatives in the finance sector, one should restrict one's
action to not buying them.

The EFF is pointing out that proprietary content formats on the Net are a
Bad Thing for everyone who wants to see information in non-proprietary
formats, on grounds of intellectual freedom.   People who feel this, like
me, often feel it because of hard experience of orphaned data.  There are
cases in which nationally important content has simply vanished in
electronic form, because of proprietary coding.  Now, we may not have been
the authors or copyright owners of it.  But we have an interest in there
being continued access to our cultural heritage, as readers and customers,
yes, and as citizens.  The EFF would have the same problem with revWeb if it
became adopted in the same way that Flash has been, for the same reasons. 
Unless the approach of the company were to change.

Its then going on to point our that Apple achieves the same end, restriction
of availability of content and of what people can do with their platforms,
by different and additional means. 

So the bottom line of the article is:  Adobe and Apple are two versions of
closed and proprietary, and for one to criticize the other for being
proprietary is rather hilarious, and both are bad for society.  

The lesson for us however should be that Rev meets two of Jobs' criteria for
being linked to the Anti-Party clique:  One, its proprietary and on the net. 
Two, its cross platform.  So watch out:  the next stop is a knock on the
door at 3am and a long holiday in sunny Siberia.
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