My last post was about how I see the web, as being made of platforms, channels/instruments, contexts and content. A few days after I pressed publish, Steve Jobs sent out an announcement stating that Apple would not be supporting Flash on the iPad or the iPhone.
First, what is Flash?
It’s Adobe’s answer to our need for rich and interactive websites that, however, poses a number of obstacles. When we use a computer as a platform and access a website built using flash we are asked to install a plugin that simply put downloads the flash file and presents it on the browser. Sounds simple enough and there are several examples of good websites built on Flash.
But it is not so simple. Google as problems indexing flash websites, even though they have put a great deal of effort into it. And if you want to use a mobile phone, chances are that you will find that the website does not fit a tiny screen or worse, does not show up at all. When at work you may not be able to access the website if the IT department did not install the flash plugin on Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome, and if you are visually impaired the text browser and your screen reader won’t find a trace of information 90% of the time, unless there is a text version of the website.
This means that if a flash website is not built properly it can prove itself to be a huge communication obstacle. Apple’s response to this was to clearly state that it will not support Adobe’s effort to use Flash on mobile devices.
Adobe and Apple
Faced with Steve Job’s announcement, Adobe replied as soon as it could. To sum it up, the response states that Adobe was already looking into other mobile platforms and that they look forward to show Flash 10.1 in Google’s Android Smartphones.
During this time, Google posted on the Google Code Blog, directing developers to HTML5 as part of a New Era for Mobile Phones.
What we have here is a company that provides users with platforms (Apple) and another that provides developers with a tool to build communication channels/instruments (Adobe) together with a clear miss match of intentions and strategy. Google’s post on how HTML5 is important to mobile phones goes together with Apple’s intent to abandon Flash, thus weakening Adobe’s position even further.
What this means for Public Relations
There are several variables that come into play when building a corporate website of any sort. Usability, accessibility and user experience are just three of them. Even though a flash website can score very high on user experience, it scores very low on access through different platforms and, sometimes, even on ease of use.
For a corporate website to be a true investment, it must be built with a clear strategy in mind where we take into account what information we wish to make available, in what contexts and keeping in mind which platforms our visitors use. As far as technology is concerned, it does not matter if it is closed or open source as long as it is secure and stable while at the same time allowing us to adapt to current trends.
With Apple’s announcement it became obvious that websites built using flash in the last two years are obsolete when faced with the iPad’s launch, and thus a great deal of the communication budget may have to be directed into moving towards HTML5 or mobile apps.