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Flash Is Not a Right 850

medcalf notes that game designer Ian Bogost enters the debate about Flash by saying "[A] large number of developers seem to think that they have the right to make software for the iPhone (or for anything else) in Flash, or in another high-level environment of their choosing. Literally, the right, not just the convenience or the opportunity. And many of them are quite churlish about the matter. This strikes me as a very strange sort of attitude to adopt. There's no question that Flash is useful and popular, and it has a large and committed user base. There's also no question that it's often convenient to be able to program for different platforms using environments one already knows. And likewise, there's a long history of creating OS stubs or wrappers or other sorts of gizmos to make it possible to run code 'alien' to a platform in a fashion that makes it feel more native. But what does it say about the state of programming practice writ large when so many developers believe that their 'rights' are trampled because they cannot write programs for a particular device in a particular language? Or that their 'freedom' as creators is squelched for the same reason?"
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Flash Is Not a Right

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  • by xclay ( 924789 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:31PM (#32113592) Homepage
    The new popularism around entitlement for the betterment of one's own convenience or laziness has been around since they invented computers, it's no surprise.
  • by seanalltogether ( 1071602 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:37PM (#32113706)
    think again []
  • Skirting the issue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:37PM (#32113710) Homepage Journal

    Bogust suggests that cross-platform software may be making developers lazy, and turning software into one big cross-platform monoculture.

    That may be true, but he's missing the real issue. As long as those products are viewed as some sort of computing device, one expects them to do what computing devices do, and the hardware is capable of that. Computing devices, those that are Turing complete, are general purpose. The platform may impose constraints like speed and memory - consider them to be challenges. (limitations by another name)

    No, the real issue here is that one buys a piece of hardware which is a general purpose computing device, with very livable hardware constraints.
    THEN the provider artificially constrains that system.

    Here's the issue another way...
    We're used to buying physical things, which become ours, and we can do with as we please.
    We're used to buying books, movies, and music, and understand that we're not supposed to make illegitimate copies of them. (The question of what constitutes "illegitimate" is a quagmire, of course.)

    More and more physical things come with embedded computing devices. Those embedded computing devices run software. Those who wrote the software are making more obvious limitations upon the "permissible" use of that hardware that is shipped with their software.

    The iStuff wasn't the beginning of this trend, merely the current, most blatant example. But remember, it's getting hard to find any item of significance that doesn't have some sort of embedded computing these days. Imagine if practically everything you buy comes with license restrictions. artificially limiting what you can do with the product, enhancing the makers' revenue streams, etc. Since I have "car analogy" in my signature, imagine a car (with built-in GPS, of course) that starts bucking, misfiring, and generally misbehaving when you drive into a non-dealer repair or aftermarket accessory shop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:52PM (#32114052)

    Of course, this is in direct opposition to how practical software development CAN work. People don't usually build software individually, they develop and distribute as groups, and base their software on other software that as similarly developed. Be it in commercially motivated companies or as purpose-motivated communities, this is always the same, and developing any significant piece of software for just your own use is an impractical waste of time, with high risk of not getting good results in terms of quality.

    So any platform where you may not be able to develop significant software and distribute it in practice, is a giant waste of time. We have better, we need better, w

  • Flashdance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XiaoMing ( 1574363 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:53PM (#32114068)

    Yes, it's true that Flash is not a right. And yes, it's also true that by "choosing Apple" you're choosing a "closed system". But none of it get to the core issue.
    Why do people write software? Most people (aside from those that just do it for their own jollies) write software so that others can use it and share in its benefit. As for software corporations, there's a big financial aspect tied to the motivations, but the want for mass-consumption is still there.

    In this case, Adobe being such a crybaby about this situation is both an insult to Apple, but also a very big compliment. There is so much fear that the iPad will revolutionize... something (Granted I don't know what, as the most entertaining thing I've managed to get out of it is tapping flying Dragonballs to a musical beat) and become so ubuiquitous, that Adobe not being able to take part in it the way they've currently done with so many other forms of computing environments makes them throw e-hissy fits.

    But it's neither party's fault. Apple could just as easily fail, like so many others before them (including their younger self) at creating a tablet like device, and this entire argument would be moot. On the flip side, were flash able to take more than just the left mouse button (wait, why doesn't Apple like Flash again?) and anything other than Tab as an input; had Flash actually overran the internet, I'm sure Apple would have been more than happy to play along or make exceptions.

    I know there will be many who would argue whether the latter were true, but just look at Visa. They only went public _two_ years ago, but even before then they were THE name in plastic. Discover, MasterCard, AmEx? You had to ask if those would be accepted, after you saw a Visa logo on the door. There's nothing wrong with programming for a "closed" system, as long as everyone else is using it. But right now Apple just doesn't think Adobe has enough market share to be worth being "Open" for, and Adobe is scared Apple is on its way to becoming the next Visa.

  • Inb4 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by logjon ( 1411219 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:57PM (#32114154)
    someone points out that Flash is insecure as hell, and that the iPhone market share is significantly larger than the Mac OS X market share. I don't want that garbage on my PC, and I sure as hell wouldn't want it installed to my iPhone without my knowledge because some asshole iPhone dev doesn't know how to do real programming.
  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:57PM (#32114170) Journal


    My point is, TFA is right. For example:

    most people don't mind which is why there are tons of iPhone apps.

    If you really don't mind, I don't want to hear you bitching about the lack of Flash support. You should've seen this coming. That is my point.

    I bet half the people who bitch on Slashdot aren't even devs but children trying to be edgy (the majority of Flash "developers").

    I am not now and never have been a Flash developer.

    It's this stupid "me me me" crap that pervades everything here

    Because people who develop and release open source software are clearly doing so out of pure, unadulterated selfishness?

    it's worse than the made up demons of Apple and Facebook

    Oh, so there's a real Apple somewhere which lets me actually own my own hardware? Or a real Facebook which lets me own my own data?

  • by Mathonwy ( 160184 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @01:59PM (#32114208)

    I don't think the problem is that apple is trampling someone's "rights". I think it is more that apple is just continuing to act like a dick. (Whcih shouldn't be a surprise, since the dickery of Steve Jobs is well documented.)

    I can't speak for others, but my personal beef is that apple is putting restrictions on the development process instead of the result.

    I have ZERO problem if they want to put restrictions on the result. "Your binary must adhere to these rules, and behave thusly." That's fine.

    I take great exception if they say how I can make it though. Saying "you can't use these tools" is silly. They shouldn't care what tools are used. To me, saying "you can't submit anything that was written in flash" makes exactly as much sense as saying "You can't submit anything that wasn't written by someone with blond hair."

    (And yes, I'm equally insensed about Java, Unity, or anything else, as I am about Flash.)

    Also I'm mostly annoyed by the obvious hippocracy that it shows on the part of apple. (Which again, really shouldn't surprise me by now, but meh.) Because as countless people have already pointed out, it basically outlaws a very large percentage of stuff that is already in the app store. No one REALLY expects apple to come down too hard on the non-flash things here. They are basically just issuing a law that makes it so EVERYONE who uses any kind of middleware is illegal, so they can pick and choose their enforcement to suit their whims. The app store approval process already has a wide reputation for capriousness. They already pick and choose apps to ban inconsistently, frequently refuse to provide reasons, and refuse to provide any real recourse, or point of contact. This is only going to make this problem worse.

    So yeah. I don't get mad at apple because I feel I have some "right" to use flash in particular. But I do feel that I have a "right" to develop using whatever tools I see fit, whether they be Adobe's products, or blond-haired employees, and that apple should get out of my business, and only concern themselves with my product.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:02PM (#32114304) Homepage

    They go farther than that. Try and write an iPhone app under linux. They demand you use their hardware and their OS as well.

  • by UseCase ( 939095 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:03PM (#32114340)

    The more I read and talk to people (developers other than myself) about this issue the more I am beginning to realize that the outrage is more from companies who develop content for other larger companies than from developers. Most developers realize that they will have to learn new technologies, APIs, languages, paradigms, etc in there professional careers. In fact most developers expect things to change. From C to C++, Win32/MFC to .NET, Carbon to Cocoa (the list could go on) developers have been updating and reinventing themselves constantly to maintain viability.

    I think the outrage and expectation is coming from the media design and development companies used by large commercial companies to create web and kiosk applications. They do not want to spend the dollars to train there current staff on the new technologies and do not want to hire the talent necessary to move forward in the new platform ecosystem. They want the current set of technical expertise they have to remain eternally viable. Flash is the crutch that many of these types of companies lean on. It allows them the biggest bang for there buck and reduces the risk to them. These companies have nice work flows set up around flash and a huge set of already written action script code on which the can leverage new product on regardless of platform quickly.

    I think, the complaining and outrage will continue for the near future as these companies reorganize and rebuild there cpodebases to leverage the new technologies and platforms.

  • by Ludachrispeed ( 1326307 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:14PM (#32114562)
    There is a certain intellectual freedom associated with programming. Parent, you are of course right:

    You may not like it but the fact is no one cares. Don't develop for Apple. No one will miss you.

    What I don't understand is why people aren't doing just that. Most of us program because it's fun, but it's just not fun when you're limited. Yes, when I program for fun it is all about me, and damnit, I deserve to be able to do what I want. That's why I use Linux :)

    So... why are you people still developing for iPhone? Put your money where your mouth is.

  • by Londovir ( 705740 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @02:24PM (#32114778)

    So, what you're saying is anticompetitive behavior is perfectly acceptable as long as there are alternatives? What's your opinion on Microsoft? Are they "demons", or a legitimate monopoly concern?

    When Intel was demonstrably shown to deliberately cripple the performance of source code compiled using their compiler for any CPU other than "Genuine Intel", which is part of the reason they eventually settled with AMD, that was something AMD and everyone else should "get the f--k over"? It's perfectly fine because if people don't like it, they can just use something else? Nevermind that many corporations licensed and used Intel's compiler and had their own products possibly reduced in functionality or lost business as a result. They should have just chose a different compiler, right?

    Or, what about Microsoft? Sure, Internet Explorer is wired directly into the operating system. Sure, everyone is forced into using it whether or not they want to. Sure, Microsoft just so happens to be the OS on most computers. Ahh, heck, it's no problem - people should just get over it because they can always download Firefox, or Opera, or Safari. No reason to get your panties in a wad, right?

    This isn't always about people being pissed at Apple for locking out Flash. And I agree with TFA in that people seem to be thinking of this as a deity-provided right. That's probably the wrong way to look at it. I look at it as the slowly growing and likely dominant force in mobile electronics deciding on their own what's right for the marketplace, and using their de facto power as such to control what happens.

    We're looking at 1 million+ iPad units sold in about a month. As other articles state, they are killing netbook sales. They are well on their way to becoming the only viable choice in the market for portable electronic computers - just as they are for portable electronic music players - just as they are slowly becoming for portable phones.

    When Apple has that position and leverage, that gives them the power to dictate everything about it. If they deny Flash, they are putting a strangle on a [proprietary] product. This is very similar to Microsoft and the entire Internet Explorer antitrust debacle. Microsoft was found guilty of using their installed base as a means of pushing Internet Explorer above all other browsers (even though choices for users existed), and they were also accused of modifying their APIs to be accessible and favorable for IE over other browsers. They were accused of using their market share as leverage against 3rd party OEMs by binding them into capricious and damaging contracts.

    Apple is turning into the same beast. Naturally you can write in their language or make the choice to not write for Apple at all. You have an option...but a poor one. You either write for Apple using what they tell you to do, and address a market of 1 million+ iPads, or you write in the language you want (Flash, etc), and sell to a market that's getting smaller day by day.

    This isn't "me me me" crap - this is an erosion of the concept of competition. It wasn't allowed for Microsoft, and it shouldn't be allowed here. Apple is taking away my choices as a programmer who wants to make a living developing applications. For now, it might not be so grim because there are other choices; look to the future when the market is just Apple and that's it and the future is much darker. (Ask the people who were waiting for Courier or Slate to be alternatives to much for that...)

    It's exaggerated hyperbole to the extreme, but your specious argument is tantamount to saying you get a choice of "death by strangling" or "death by evisceration and strangling with your entrails". In either case, the end result isn't good for you...but hey, quit bitching because at least we gave you a choice!

  • It's not Apple, but AT&T via contract which locked you out of the iPhone.

    I'm not convinced of this. The iPod Touch has the same restrictions as the iPhone, and the iPad with only Wi-Fi has the same restrictions as the iPad 3G.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2010 @03:11PM (#32115564)

    It doesn't seem to enable you to produce swf files (only RIA files) or to write and compile working applications.

    The Flex SDK compiles an MXML file into a SWF file.

    Here's a link to the free SDK:

    Download it. Install it. Write an MXML file. Compile it. Deploy it (the SWF file, the generated HTML wrapper, deep linking support files, and Express Install files). Free.

  • by broken_chaos ( 1188549 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @03:13PM (#32115612)

    Have you played some of the Flash games on websites like Newgrounds? Some of them are truly amazing games -- visually, stylistically, and from gameplay perspectives. Back when Adobe was doing their Flash compiler beta testing, developers of some of those games actually ported them to the iPhone and sold them, such as Canabalt (Newgrounds [], iTunes store []). (I'm surprised its still on the iTunes store, actually. Apple never has been consistent about implementing their rules, though...)

    These sort of ports are what is being lost. Creating a 'spam app' with Objective-C is nearly as easy -- creating a work of gaming art, like some high-quality Flash games, is not.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @03:46PM (#32116136) Journal

    Rights derive from agreements between individuals to respect and defend certain conditions. There are no natural or God given rights. Without society, it is meaningless to talk about rights: there is only power. If we agree that 'developing on any platform, in any language you choose' is a right, then it is a right. As with all rights, we will have to give up something to gain something, in this case, we give up the right to make a closed platform.

    You can try to make this an emotional issue. You can try to appeal to a higher authority such as nature, god, your ideal of morality, or common sense, but appeal to authority does not make for a logical argument. Apple is not wrong for making a closed platform. Developers aren't wrong for demanding an open platform. But your appeal to Apple's supposed 'right' to create a closed platform is the exact same argument as the developers appeal for the 'right' to an open environment. It is meaningless rhetoric meant to appeal to emotions.

    What we should do instead is weigh the pros and cons. Is the freedom to create a closed environment more valuable than the freedom to develop on any environment as we see fit? The freedom to create a closed environment is just a special case of the freedom to do as we like with our own creations. This right does not impose anything on anyone: if you don't like the closed environment don't use it. If enough people decide not to use it, it will fail. The right to develop as we see fit on any environment imposes more restrictions, it makes demands on creators to open their environment. The thing is, we do have the freedom to develop for any platform in flash. Hack the thing, write your own flash interpreter for it, and go to town. Imposing on Apple the demand that they sell such programs in their store infringes on the already agreed upon right to do most anything we like with our own possessions. Is it worth making a special case here, where we infringe on that already agreed upon right? Well, there are cases where we already do, for instance, if you cause harm to others such as pollution, if you deny service based on race, or you are a monopoly. And while Apple may have a monopoly of sorts on the iPad and iPhone, this does not constitute a real monopoly as these products do not account for 80%+ of the market for these type of electronic devices. I can't really think of a similar existing case where we limit the rights of people to do whatever they want with their own possessions.

    That being said, if developers feel it is important to have the right to develop in flash on any platform, they can pressure the platform creator to enact that right. Just don't put it in moral terms. Put it in power terms: do so, or we will punish you as best we can. That takes it out of the fuzzy, fuzzy realm of rights and into the cold hard world of negotiation and consequences. It acknowledges that it is really about "me, me, me," and not some moral argument. That's fine, people have conflicts like that all the time and manage to resolve them. I would have no problem with developers banding together to do this, and I would have no problem with Apple telling them to fuck off. I don't have a horse in this race. I just consider it an interesting case study of the concept of rights.

  • by Zagadka ( 6641 ) <zagadka@xeDEBIAN ... com minus distro> on Thursday May 06, 2010 @05:57PM (#32117974) Homepage

    You're thinking of Macs. This is about iPhone OS.

  • by Jezza ( 39441 ) on Thursday May 06, 2010 @07:06PM (#32119060)

    Yeah but that mean that if I don't take the pi^h^hmick I can play my stuff anywhere. If I decide to defect to some other player I can get the music to play (I might need to convert it... but that's a given). Sounds in my best interest. OK I can't give my music away across the Internet, but I'm not convinced I should have that right.

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