Remember when Steve Jobs first revealed the iPhone and he tried to make “Web Apps” sound awesome because Apple didn’t have an SDK or an App Store? And remember how everyone said that was crap and they should be allowed to develop native apps?
A year later Apple allowed native app development and it has been a smashing success. Now there is a chorus of people afraid of its success. They think it portends the end of the web, or the open web, and the death of freedom, etc., etc.
In fact, now many web commentators are pushing for what are effectively Apple’s original “Web Apps” as the “right” way to develop for the iPhone. They’ve come full circle.
I see the same cycle approaching in the cries for Apple to add Flash support to Mobile Safari. “The iPhone is crap without Flash!” they say, just as they complained about the lack of an SDK. But if Apple were to add Flash support, what would happen? The performance of Mobile Safari on sites that use Flash would undoubtedly suffer. The user experience would be poor (framerate issues from a lack of processor power, mouse hover problems, and other small-screen, touch-screen specific issues). Flash-specific exploits would compromise the software and everyone would have to wait on Adobe to fix them and then for Apple to provide an updated build of the OS that most owners wouldn’t even install. It would cause a lot of problems. In the meantime HTML5 video solutions would improve. Soon the web pundits would start a push away from Flash, pointing out the issues listed above and, more importantly to them, the closed, proprietary nature of Flash programs. “Death to Flash!” they would say.
Why don’t we just avoid the whole thing and keep Flash out of Mobile Safari? Let’s hope Apple sticks to their guns on this one and uses their powerful position to move everyone towards a standards-based future faster than we’d get there otherwise.