Archive for February, 2012

Apple Should be Punished for Attempting to Kill Browser Plugins

February 22, 2012

THIS IS A PICTURE OF THE APPLE ICON STABBING A PLUGIN

Can you imagine if Microsoft back in the days of operating system wars… just after the time they bailed out Apple when it was on its death bed, said to the world.., “Our browser will not support plugins.  Instead, we have made an app store on Windows where we will get 30% of apps sold.”  Well this is what Apple did.

A couple of things have changed since the Microsoft reign:

1. HTML 5 has introduced the canvas tag and we have kludged JavaScript to get better at making apps in the open source world – so why do we need plugins?

2. Mobile is here with less processing power than desktops – so we can’t run plugins… right?

3. Mobile is small and plugin content was built for large screens – right?

4. Apple has become a cult and can seemingly do no wrong.

Let us address these points:

1.  The world should not rely on one type of thing.  We know that.  Why are we allowing HTML 5 (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) to have a monopoly in our Web world?  Plugins offer a forum to let companies build improvements.  How can people support open source and then say… sorry, it has to be made in HTML 5.  That is hypocritical – or perhaps to be more delicate… narrow minded.  We need plugin architecture in our browsers or we will stagnate.  Alternatively, we will find companies making their own browser systems ala Second Life, Steam, etc.

2. The processing power of mobile devices initially was understandably slow.  Blackberry and Android supported the Flash plugin for instance and performance on existing Flash content was sluggish for the most part.  Speeds have been getting faster and faster and soon, if not already, have reached acceptable rates.  Also, plugin makers did not design them for mobile.  So, let them design plugins for mobile.

3. Mobile screens are small and any legacy content runs the risk of not working well from an interface standpoint.  There are a number of HTML sites that do not work well on mobile – why single out plugins and in particular Flash for not working well?  Here is an idea – plugins have version numbers… why not allow version numbers after a certain date so that legacy material is filtered out until it is updated with mobile in mind.  Going forward, designers and developers know they are making for mobile.   Flash, for instance, does run on mobile – the thousands of apps in the app stores built with Flash prove it.

4.  Apple, through its iPod, became huge.  This success continued with the iPhone and iPad all the while glamorizing the brand and also selling its laptops and desktops to a point where it is the most profitable company in the world.  Hey… and it takes 30% of all apps and songs sold.  Obviously, Apple benefits from killing browser plugins.  If the world can’t get free apps and games in the browser, they will have to buy from the app store where they get 30%.  Now this is somewhat good for app developers because they have a better chance of making some money too.  It is also somewhat beneficial to the public in that they love consuming and the app store is a laid out to easily consume.  So… Apple seems to have gotten away with it and unfortunately influenced other browser makers like Microsoft to make similar decisions – while also giving plugin makers an inferiority complex as advertising companies and the world shun them for not being on the iPhone browser.

A browser should find and present things.  Browsers find and present an image, a video – why not an interactive piece like a Flash Feature, a Java Applet or a Unity Game?  The browser should NOT say – oh… I have a way to make interactive content – therefore no other way will be allowed.  This is especially true when the plugin structure has used by billions with content created by millions of designer/developers.

Now… Apple did what they did – and if the market says okay – then I guess they should not be punished – is that how it works?  I find it unethical for a company to present an Internet browser to a captive audience that does not include plugins like other standard Internet browsers so that people will be forced to a store run by that company.  Apple, I punish you even if our business society does not – you are not getting any more of my money nor have you for the last 3 years.

The real loss, however, has been a setback in advanced interactive works in the short term followed by a monopoly led by a slow moving open source conglomerate in support of HTML, CSS and Javascript.  I have said it before, and I say it again… Open Source should not kill Closed Source – it is not good for advancement.  They should both exist.  Killing browser plugin architecture (or the likes) is a bad move.

Dan Zen

PS.

A caveat is that I don’t make browsers or plugins, so do not really know the technical difficulties of all this.  I heard from Adobe that it was not practical to support all the different phones, etc.  Yet, Flash works as an app through AIR on these same phones so there should be a plugin architecture for browsers that will just play the app in a frame.  If it can be done on the desktop it should be able to be done on mobile.

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