Thoughts on Steve

The current spat between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Adobe has been amusing to watch from the sidelines. There is an irony in Apple having a go at Adobe for supporting a closed proprietary de-facto standard like Flash. Much as it pains me to say it on most of the points Steve makes I find myself agreeing. The web will be a better place when video is delivered over standard HTML5 tags instead of being wrapped up in some closed plugin. There are also better standards based solutions for vector graphics which together with JavaScript and libraries can render the other major use of Flash obsolete.

My advice to Adobe would be to concentrate on the authoring tools and output to a common supported standard for the final rendering.

Of course the FSF have joined in to comment. Apart from the major flaw that Job’s walled garden locks out all sorts of competitors that aren’t Flash there is the small elephant in the room around video codec patents. Apple would love the de-facto embedded video standard to be H.264 which is already available from YouTube. The free software community also has one of the best video codec implementations in the FFmpeg project. Actually playing video is already a well solved problem. Unfortunately the uncertainty around patents means the distributions are incredibly hesitant to distribute binaries supporting such encumbered codecs. Luckily for Apple they hold a significant number of patents related to the technology.

There is of course Ogg Theora which is on the surface patent free and the default codec used by Wikipedia. Google’s recent acquisition of On2 hold out hope for a more modern video codec becoming fully open. It’s clear that the next few years will see some shake up in the delivery of video over the web.

So while I will happily cheer the demise of the bloated security nightmare that is Flash beware of gifts brought by turtlenecked geeks.