iPhone won't run Flash or Java: is it a complete Web experience?

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Apple has already made it clear that the Safari browser built in to the iPhone won’t run the Flash plug-in. Now it’s also been noted that it won’t run Java applications, either.

Because of these two omissions, Mobile Business magazine has weighed in and claimed that the iPhone won’t run the full Web.

They claim that Flash and Java are “near essential” applications – and I’ll own up and say that I’ve said similar about Flash. I’m not a huge fan of Flash, because it does its best to slow down even the most modern PC’s CPU, but I recognise that it has become a standard for a number of web applications.

Java, too, is a pain. The only Java I like is the hot, steaming variety that comes from my coffee percolator each morning. The other Java is – well – hot and steaming might describe it, but it ain’t coffee.

Now, saying that I’ll probably be shot by a pack of hardcore Java developers, followed up by some mobile phone users who enjoy playing Java games on their mobile phones.

Yes, yes, I’ll grant it has its uses – but the only time I’ve really had call to use it is messing about on Yahoo Games. And that, even on a desktop computer, has at times been an unpleasant experience.

Java is slow and unreliable. Flash is bloated and intense. Neither really need have a prominent place in modern web design. For that, Safari and the iPhone, as with most modern browsers on modern operating systems, is perfectly well suited.

And if you want video on the iPhone, you’ve got YouTube now.

Mobile Business Magazine has this to say about the iPhone launching in the UK:

“Apple will need to rethink their advertising campaign before it hits the UK as the ASA will surely have something to say.”

Here’s what one commenter, “Cleverboy”, had to say on the iPhone Matters site:

The web is NOT defined by whether you’re running Java or if you have the latest Flash plugin… no matter what Adobe or Sun would have you believe. It’s NOT. The “full web” is about having a solid modern Internet browser that supports javascript, cookies, DHTML, and the latest HTML 4 standard. Adobe tried to push the Open SVG standard back when Internet Explorer had fallen asleep on updates, and stopped. Firefox, Opera, and Safari have stepped up to the bat, and Web 2.0 is leading the way.

Apple will support Quicktime, obviously, but battery draining boondoggles like Flash and Java need not apply. Out of all the technologies on the web, I see Flash and Java as being two if the most NEEDLESSLY over-used technologies. I was looking at a Nokia 800 demo on YouTube the other day, and it was creeking along with its Flash player implementation. When it got to video, it just stopped out right. Flash and Java make the WWW unsearchable, and usually serve to permanently obscure parts of the Internet and make it less usable.

I agree.

While you may be scuppered if you want to play Java games, or visit a website that is still living in the ’90s and thinks it’s cool to use a Java-based navigation system, or watch the Gerbil in a Microwave on your iPhone, the majority of web users will be able to surf well-designed web sites with no problems.

If the iPhone sparks a whole new wave of mobile devices that are powerful enough to surf the web, but are never going to be powerful enough to handle proprietary bloatware, then maybe web designers who can see the potential of the mobile web will stick to well-behaved standards instead.

Andy Merrett

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