Daniel Eran Dilger
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An Adobe Flash developer on why the iPad can’t use Flash

Daniel Eran Dilger

Morgan Adams, an interactive content developer who knows a lot about building Flash, wrote in with an interesting perspective on Flash and the iPad. The remainder of this piece is his comments on the subject.

Inside Apple’s iPad: Adobe Flash
I’m biased. I’m a full-time Flash developer and I’d love to get paid to make Flash sites for iPad. I want that to make sense—but it doesn’t. Flash on the iPad will not (and should not) happen—and the main reason, as I see it, is one that never gets talked about:

Current Flash sites could never be made work well on any touchscreen device, and this cannot be solved by Apple, Adobe, or magical new hardware.

That’s not because of slow mobile performance, battery drain or crashes. It’s because of the hover or mouseover problem.

Many (if not most) current Flash games, menus, and even video players require a visible mouse pointer. They are coded to rely on the difference between hovering over something (mouseover) vs. actually clicking. This distinction is not rare. It’s pervasive, fundamental to interactive design, and vital to the basic use of Flash content. New Flash content designed just for touchscreens can be done, but people want existing Flash sites to work. All of them—not just some here and there—and in a usable manner. That’s impossible no matter what.

All that Apple and Adobe could ever do is make current Flash content visible. It would be seen, but very often would not work. Users would hate that broken promise much more than they hate gaps in pages, missing banner ads, and the need to download a game once from the App Store instead of re-downloading it every time they visit a Flash game page.

Mouseover examples:

* Video players where the controls appear on mouseover and hide otherwise. (This seems to be the norm, in fact. Whereas a click on the same video does something different: usually Pause. Try Hulu for instance.)

* Games where you steer with the mouse without clicking (extremely common).

* Menus that popup up subpage links when you mouse over a main button, vs. going directly to a main category page when you click.

* Buttons that have important explanations/summaries on mouseover, which you need to understand before deciding what to click.

* Functions that use mouseover to preview and click to commit; such as choosing hair colors for an avatar: you mouse over the colors until your character looks the way you like, and then you click to commit.

* Maps and diagrams that don’t use click at all, but pop up info as you mouse around.

* Numerous other custom mouseover functions that “just work” with a mouse and need no explanation.

None of these things can work right with a finger (or traditional stylus) because on a touchscreen, pointing at something without clicking isn’t a mouseover: it’s just holding your finger vaguely in the air. The device doesn’t even know it’s happening.

In addition, some Flash sites rely on right-clicks (such as for security settings), and many rely on a physical keyboard. Especially games, which are the main kind of content people want from Flash. (I’d say video, except video can easily be done without Flash, and sites are increasingly doing so. Much of the video missing from your favorite Flash site is probably easily found on YouTube anyway.) Games often use realtime key control, requiring a distinction between a single press and a long hold, and including the need for chording. For instance: holding right arrow continuously to walk, while simultaneously hitting the space bar to fire, and either hitting up-arrow once to jump or holding up-arrow longer to jump higher. A touchscreen keyboard can’t handle these kinds of rapid, precise combinations well. And the keyboard would block the game view, too. Games on a touchscreen need controls suitable for a touchscreen (and/or tilt).

The only potential “solutions” to the mouseover problem are terrible ones:

A) The best case: every Flash app on every site is re-thought by its designers and re-coded by its programmers (if they’re even still available), just for touchscreens. They wouldn’t use mouseovers any more—or else they’d have dual versions of all Flash content, so that mouse users could still benefit from the mouseovers they are used to. That’s a ton of work across the Web, for thousands of parties, and just isn’t going to happen. Plus, with many sites, mouseovers are so fundamental that the very concept of the site would be altered, creating a whole different experience that would annoy and confuse the site’s existing users. (And would this be any easier than simply re-designing without Flash at all? Not always.)

B) Gestures, finger gymnastics or extra physical buttons are created that simulate mouseover—which is absurd since mouseovers, by their nature, are meant to be simpler than a click/tap, not more complex. And meant to be natural, not something new to learn. Not a whole set of habits that violates our desktop habits. And any additional complexity is unworkable when it comes to games: you need to react quickly and simply, not remember when to hold the Simulate Mouseover button, or use three fingers, or whatever. The game itself is enough to deal with. Anything on top of that takes away fun.

C) Make clicking itself—the fundamental, constantly-used action—MORE complex. Such as requiring a double-tap or two-finger tap before anything is registered. (Two taps is how Mobile Safari does JavaScript popup menus: the first tap pops it up, the second selects.) But many Flash apps and games already use double-click (or rapid-fire clicking) for other things. Extra taps only make sense for certain limited situations (like menu popups). And it’s not just clicking: you have to allow for movement: dragging vs. a moving mouseover. And even if a system could be created that was quick and simple enough to do all this in the middle of a game, how would the user know which parts of a web page played by these special rules? One part of a page (the Flash elements) would do fundamental things like scrolling or link-clicking differently from the rest of the page! (Not to mention the rest of your touch-based apps.)

D) Have a visible mouse pointer near your finger, and not interact with things directly. Use Apple track-pad style tap-and-drag gestures, as seen in some VNC clients. This kind of indirect control violates the very principle of direct touch manipulation. This is making the touchscreen be something “like a laptop but worse” and has little reason to exist. And again, you’d have to keep remembering whether you were in direct touch mode or “drag the arrow” mode, and which parts of the page behaved in which way.

E) Require extra force for a “real” tap. So you’d have to learn habits for a light tap vs. a hard tap. This extra complexity is non-intuitive, cramp-inducing, and easy for the user to get wrong (even with click feedback, as in RIM’s failed BlackBerry SurePress experiment). This complicates the whole device just for the sake of one browser plugin, and makes it more expensive to build.

So it’s not just that Apple has refused to support Flash. It cannot, logically, be done. A finger is not a mouse, and Flash sites are designed to require a mouse pointer (and keyboard) in fundamental ways. Someday that may change, and every Flash site could be redesigned with touch-friendly Flash. But that doesn’t make Flash sites work now.

Even if slow performance, battery drain and crashes weren’t problems with Flash (and they truly are), nothing can give users of any touchscreen, from any company, an acceptable experience with today’s Flash sites. The thing so many complainers want is simply an impossibility.

By the way, imagine my embarrassment as a Flash developer when my own animated site wouldn’t work on the newfangled iPhone! So I sat down and made new animations using WebKit’s CSS animation abilities. Now desktop users still see Flash at adamsi.com, but iPhone users see animations too. It can be done.

Morgan Adams, adamsimmersive
interactive design and games

  • dazweeja

    @Chipotle, good points and I also agree that the video codec is a big problem. I can’t see Mozilla ever supporting a proprietary format like H.264 as it’s completely against their philosophy. If Google chooses to open-source VP8, this might become a standard but who knows what Microsoft would do then.

    @miloh, surely in the context of this discussion, I don’t have to preface every statement with “On an iPad”. I don’t think anyone reading the statement “it’s still thousands of actual apps I might want the *choice* to access” would interpret that to mean I’m not able to access those apps on other devices like PCs and that I wasn’t referring specifically to the iPad. I disagree that the market has made any decision regarding Flash on the iPhone, other than that it’s not a big enough weakness to outweigh the other advantages the iPhone has over its competitors. If there was a situation where there were two equivalent phones and one had Flash and the other didn’t, then we could identify a market preference. Or better still if Apple offered both a Flash and non-Flash version of the iPhone for the same price and let customers decide which version they preferred. Regardless, I think by the end of the year when both Android and Flash 10.1 has matured, we will have a better idea of market preference.

  • miloh


    “… other than that it’s not a big enough weakness to outweigh the other advantages the iPhone has over its competitors.”

    Yeah, that’s kind of the point. The market, as it presently exists, has decided that the lack of Flash is not a significant enough problem.

  • timkindberg

    Look, you guys all made very good points starting from comment 192. In fact I think almost everything in this very long argument has been resolved (but that’s just me). Chipotle you’re very well spoken when not being so sarcastic, so I appreciate your insights as I actually agree with most of them. I do think Flash is being underestimated though, and I think there is a really good chance we’ll see a resurgence of it. People think it’s dying but really with Player 10.1 and CS5 around the corner, and Catalyst and Flex 4 coming out soon, it may be JUST getting started.

    I also hate banner ads, cheesy splash intros, and all that jazz, I apologize on behalf of the Flash community. You’ll still see them, but that’s because clients still want them, and flash happens to be the right tool for those cheesy jobs (unfortunately), don’t hate the tool hate the game.

    What I am SO excited about is using these new tools. Flex and Catalyst should be an absolutely revolutionary way to meld design and development for web apps. It would be a shame to see it die now.

  • Chipotle


    You’re not the first person to note that I am sometimes overly sarcastic. :)

    Flash got a bad reputation early on, I suspect, because it was targeted to ad agencies who were doing, well, ad agency things with them — hence all the banner ads. That’s not really its fault, no, but I suspect it’s the main reason somebody invented a Flash blocker. I suspect in the iPad discussions, people who have long hated Flash for those sorts of things see this as an excuse to dance on its grave a bit prematurely.

    As for the new tools like Flex and Catalyst and Flash CS5, I’m not worried about them “dying” even if the Flash runtime technology is eventually superceded on the web. Remember, Adobe actually wanted to “kill” Flash with SVG before they bought Macromedia; whatever else one can say about them, Adobe’s a pretty adaptable company. If it really looks like the set of tools that ECMAScript 4 and HTML5 give you are (a) comparable and (b) taking off, expect future Adobe tools to target them. ActionScript is a relative of ECMAScript anyway, and they may move closer together with ECMASCript 4 (Javascript 2).

    I can also dream that a future version of Flash Builder will move off Eclipse, but that’s an entirely different rant. :)

  • cadillac88

    I think we can debate the merits/faults of Flash till the cows come home – as far as the Apple’s OS Mobile (or whatever its called) is concerned, its just not happening – period.

    The cynics are right – Apple does want to make more money. But cynicism will only take you go so far before it begins to make sense and therefore gets one to the Ahh… moment. Cynics need to be careful to only go so far as to get their listener to agree that the target is a greedy bastard – to explain and relentlessly push past that point just has this greedy bastard seeming more and more normal. A cynic needs to give up while they are ahead. It shouldn’t be surprising then, after thinking about it for awhile, that Apple wants to position their products profitably.

    The Flash Techies are also right. A square peg can fit in a round hole – given a big enough hammer. Flash could fit on a mobile device. And Flash will evolve. And it won’t go away. But, I bought an iPhone 3G S last June and although I noticed then that there were quite a few blue legos, lately there are fewer and fewer of these. Lots and lots of sites are now detecting that I am using an iPhone and they must have a secondary delivery method just for us iPhone users! The writing is on the wall. Mobile is different.

    Apple is right too. Flash causes the Mac to crash – a lot. And uses much too much power to do what it does. One can discount this if they like. But pretty soon the discounting can come across like a salesman plugging a product compulsively to passer-bys that haven’t the slightest interest. He’s selling but no one’s buying. No one here buying the compulsive chant that says “Apple’s got no good reason!” Plainly, cynicism and square pegs aside, they seem to have at least one or two valid issues.

    Sometime soon there will be over 100 million Apple OS Mobiles. Sometime soon after that, 150 million. Already, at 75 million, many web site developers are taking these numbers into account. Now, the FUD guys will say this represents a miniscule fraction of all web users. But at 100 million plus devices, Apple wants things “Just Right” in their own fussy way. And its just going to be more of the same as these number grow.

    Apple got burned real bad a few times in the past. They lost unbelievable amounts of money in the 90’s. I don’t know how many readers are aware of that. Almost cached in their chips at one point. Left for dead they were – by old partners. Adobe included. You may have noticed that Apple now deliberately cultivates their own core competencies since then. Like iWork, PDF reader/editor, digital media software, Web Storefronts, Standards based technologies, and so on. This irritates quite a few people, as it seems to here, but for Apple to rely on Adobe to deliver the web to their mobile devices? Step back and look at that – not allowing that it just more of the same strategy of not being beholden to anyone for their own core needs. Apple’s current strategy was forged in the very fires that almost destroyed them – part of this strategy then, has to include taking all of those fire starters, putting a face on each one, and then keeping them (and anyone who looks like them) doused. That part at least, is very simple.

  • enzos

    That’s a very fair minded appraisal, Cadillac.

    What a lot of commentators forget to mention is that Apple almost sunk in the absence of Steve Jobs. I really can’t imagine the business bungling and lack of focus that infected Apple in the late 80s and early 90s happening under the stewardship of Mr Jobs.

  • Chipotle

    @enzos: I do sometimes thinks Jobs’ magic gets a little overstated. It’s easy to forget that when he was forced out of the company the first time, there weren’t actually that many people shedding tears for him — he was a terrible person to work for (and by many accounts still is), and the vision he’s shown in his second tenure wasn’t nearly as visible back then. It’s fashionable to dump on John Sculley, his successor, but dumping on him fails to take into account that under Sculley’s leadership Apple’s sales grew by an order of magnitude.

  • http://accelerhosting.com/ fast_hosting

    I have to respectfully disagree with this posting. Mouse over is not any more of a problem with Flash than it is with HTML and JavaScript. I my self have a touch screen tablet laptop, and I completely understand the lack of the ability to mouse over when using touch screen interfaces, but there are plenty of web sites out there that use mouse over flyout navigation with regular HTML and Javascript. Flash doesn’t bring anything else to the table that isn’t already on the rest of the web with JavaScript and HTML. The problem of mouse overs needs to be solved by the device or by the programming of the experience, not by banning an authoring environment. The mouse overs have nothing to do with apple banning flash. It’s a shrewd business decision on Apple’s part, trying make people pay for functionality by buying apps for everything.

    [The issue here isn’t that Flash introduces problems that simple HTML can’t; a variety of content designed for PCs (including standard web sites that don’t use Flash) is not going to work well on multitouch devices. In fact, that’s why Apple designed the iPhone and iPad to use their own native app platform rather than trying to port over existing Mac apps, which like existing Flash content and many HTML-websites, are dependent upon the use of a mouse.

    The issue is that Adobe is pushing Flash as a ubiquitous platform that is “essential to the web,” when in fact the majority of existing Flash content is not suitable for use on nor optimized for a multitouch environment. So while all that Flash content could be revised and modernized to support Adobe’s new touch features, the question is why would this be a good idea when there are more open, accessible, and web-integrated ways to do this that don’t encumber users and developers with the other problems of Flash?

    A major problem with Flash is that it isn’t part of the web, it’s a tacked on binary alternative platform. That means the browser can’t render Flash objects as part of the DOM and apply CSS effects or transitions to them, nor integrate how they work with other elements on the page. Flash is a kluge that is now unnecessary, and since the majority of Flash content needs to be redone, it’s foolish to redo it in Flash.

    You can argue that there are lots of standard HTML websites that need to be modernized/fixed too, but this does not involve increasing dependance on some proprietary plugin architecture that doesn’t work well, doesn’t integrate with web standards, doesn’t support accessibility, doesn’t support mobile environments well, and so on. – Dan]

  • fen

    Your theory that most Flash won’t work on touch devices is interesting. It has one tiny flaw, however – that somebody with access to Flash running on a touch device tested your theory, and it turned out to be incorrect.

    We all await your correction, I’m sure. ;)

    [Looks like you didn’t get the point. The problem isn’t that Adobe can’t change the Flash Player runtime to support touch features, it’s that all the existing content that Adobe is saying is so valuable does not support touch. If it all needs to be redone, why do it in Flash when there are better performing, less buggy, more secure, and more web-like and open technologies available? – Dan]

  • stefan

    Dan, let me quote from your post:
    “Current Flash sites could never be made work well on any touchscreen device, and this cannot be solved by Apple, Adobe, or magical new hardware.”

    Now go to http://theflashblog.com/?p=2027 and watch the video as the previous poster suggested. What you see there *is* existing content. It has not been rewritten. It supports touch features. It works just fine, even where a hover is required to navigate.

    So yes, your ‘theory’ is indeed incorrect. Some may call it FUD.

    [If you had critical thinking facilities to exercise, perhaps it would occur to you that:

    a) this issue was not a theory I invented. It was written by a Flash developer who experienced this issue first hand. It is not theoretical, it is a real problem.

    b) the touch device Adobe demonstrated Flash working on was Windows 7, not a real touchscreen device anyone actually uses. Windows 7 has a mouse and cursor. That’s why there’s a cursor in Adobe’s video. At issue is how Flash will work on devices that lack a mouse convention, which are purely touch-based. Windows 7 is not touch-based, it is a conventional desktop OS that can be plugged into a touch screen to add a veneer of touch functionality. This is not the same thing.

    c) if this stuff worked well in a mobile environment, Adobe would have demonstrated it working on Android 2.2. The problem is, Flash is still crashing like mad on mobiles, and its would run into the problems described in the article if you try to run most existing Flash content in a touch environment that was not conceived when those Flash sites were built. This is not just an issue for Flash, but for any UI designs that assume a mouse cursor. The problem is that this content needs to be fixed, and that argument erases that idea that “Flash is critical to the web because there’s so much existing stuff around.”

    d) again, I didn’t write the above article. It is correct however. Steve Jobs pointed out the same issue. When some emotionally challenged Adobe evangelist stages a misleading demo and you clap like a windup monkey-with-a-cymbal toy, ignoring the huge problems with the demo and the major other issues related to Flash on mobile devices (including performance, efficiency and security) it’s not me that looks foolish. It’s you. – Dan ]

  • timbb

    Dan, what are you talking about in the above response? Nothing was rewritten, that’s the whole point.

    “If it all needs to be redone…”

    It doesn’t.

    [Sorry I hadn’t yet reviewed Adobe’s latest ridiculous bit of propaganda before replying last night. Turns out Adobe used the only version of Flash Player that has ever worked (Windows running on a PC) and hooked it up to a touch screen to demonstrate that Flash content can run in a multitouch environment.

    The problem is, the issue isn’t what Adobe is misconstruing it to be, but rather that mouseover events widely used in 1990-era interfaces (both Flash and non-Flash websites that assume the presence of mouse-based environment) must be updated to be used in touch based devices that lack the old mouse-based conventions.

    Windows 7 is not a touch based environment. It’s a standard mouse based environment with a layer of touch support. There’s still a mouse cursor! This is simply a distraction by Adobe evangelist Lee Brimelow to create outrage among Flashtards and prevent them from thinking about other issues Adobe has not addressed at all:

    – How will Adobe support 5 different new mobile platforms acceptably with Flash Player 10.1 when it hasn’t been able to support just two in the last decade? Flash being proprietary means nobody can create a Flash Player runtime apart from Adobe. Nobody can fix the bugs, nobody can improve performance, nobody can address security flaws. But Adobe has demonstrated that it doesn’t want to itself unless a platform is big enough to get its attention. If Mac OS X and Linux aren’t big enough, then why do you think webOS or WP7 will be? Or for that matter, Android?

    – How will Adobe address security issues acceptably when it hasn’t bothered to keep Flash secure over the last decade? Security experts say not to install Flash. The tech press quotes everything Charlie Miller says when it might seem to be unflattering to the Mac in a theoretical way, but when he directly says “The main thing is not to install Flash!” nobody notes it. Flash is a security nightmare.

    – The main reason for wanting Flash is video playback, but video encoding and web presentation are quickly moving to technologies that don’t require Flash. Existing Flash video is not optimized for mobile playback. This is a problem Adobe can do nothing to solve. Yet the world moves to standards-based video playback (and it already has to a large degree) and once that erases the main reason for needing Flash, there won’t be much reason at all to install a plugin just so designers can create websites that don’t use web standards.

    So your job as a Flash designer is over no matter what. Don’t shoot me for being the messenger. – Dan]

  • fen

    Dan: Lee’s video clearly shows that various well-known Flash contents work fine on touch devices without being re-authored. The sites in the video are regular PC-oriented flash, designed for desktops with pointing devices – and the problems you’re warning of don’t materialize. Those sites clearly don’t need to be redone.

    [Perhaps not if you only want to run them on the one platform Flash has ever worked on. But how many people are buying Windows 7 touchscreen devices? That’s your audience for your Flash content. See the problem now? – Dan]

  • http://flashopen.nl @flashopen

    Steve Jobs letter, the reason why he doesn’t want those specific devices to run Flash is clear. Therefore, it is not the touch-screen behavior to the Flash roll-Over’s! It is a new Apple business-model that took the hard way of not to support Flash.
    They are looking forward to html5 and Gianduia http://flashopen.nl/?AE12R5020 and using their end-user-influence (power… after the success of the iPhone) to ‘kill’ Flash and piss-off Adobe and hundred thousands of Flash Developers!
    Note that in the recent interview w/ Kevin Lynch http://flashopen.nl/?AE12R4551 such message has been well understood by Adobe. Adobe looks forward to their OSP and in this way, the successful co-operation with other partners which is already a reality.

    [I don’t think you understand the issues involved. – Dan]

  • fen


    > Windows 7 is not a touch based environment. It’s a standard mouse based environment with a layer of touch support.

    What is the technical difference between a “touch based environment” and a “mouse based environment with a layer of touch support”? It sounds suspiciously like a distinction you just made up. Do they fire events in different orders? Please be specific in your answer.

    More importantly though, the sites in that video work the same on Android phones as they do on the tablet. (I hope Android qualifies as a touch-based environment?) See some of them here: http://tinyurl.com/2dg64cr

    So we’ve dispensed with the idea that the sites were re-authored, and we’ve dispensed with the idea that Flash only works on one platform (!?). Any others?

  • fen

    Oops! Just noticed in your reply to Stefan:

    > c) if this stuff worked well in a mobile environment, Adobe would have demonstrated it working on Android 2.2.

    As noted in my previous post, Adobe has done exactly that. So presumably we can agree that these sites do indeed work well in a mobile environment.

  • stefan

    Dan – or is it Appletard? – I’ll leave you to it.
    If your strategy is to drown constructive comments with an avalanche of follow-up material which completely ignores the initial points raised and tries to draw the discussion into any random direction then it’s working very well.
    In case you hadn’t noticed, we were discussion touch support for existing Flash sites. I’d be happy to talk about Flash security, video playback performance, other supported devices in Player 10.1 or whatever else comes to your mind quite happily, but I fail to see how your edit/reply to my comment relates to the issues of touch support.

    Also as a first (and last) time commenter on your blog I find your tone to be quite rude.

    All the best,
    a Flashtard

  • timkindberg

    I’ve read this article and every comment on it. I also just finished reading your “Why Steve Jobs Loves Adobe Flash” article.

    When I read your articles, I feel like I am reading the cut-and-pasted together spewings of a highly intelligent web crawling bot. You present a bunch of “facts” that seem like they should be swaying me to your way of thinking, but instead I can’t help but feel immensely confused. It’s a similar feeling that I get when I read a well put together spam email that uses real words and phrases but ultimately is just senseless text.

    It’s no wonder your articles cause such uproar from your readers, because it’s like trying to have a real conversation with an IM Bot.

    You seem like a very intelligent person that has way too much to say and not enough time to say it. You tend to be very passionate in your posts, which further clouds your articles with bias. I’m not saying bias is bad, I love to read articles that are bias to my way of thinking, but they are still bias.

    You seem to jump from one topic to another, delving into sub-topics when necessary and then surfacing to the main point when it seems that your sub-points have been defeated. This is fine, because it’s what people do when trying to win an argument. But if this entire article and it’s comments have just turned into one big argument then it’s pointless to continue; Until both sides start to give credit where it’s due.

  • munkey_mike

    You know nothing about Flash.

    Every decent programmer knows that MouseEvent.MOUSE_OVER works independent of MouseEvent.MOUSE_DOWN. So Hulu for example, click outside the video then drag onto the video, and surprise! It works. Those are basically the same thing that is happening on the iPad. The user clicks DOWN when their finger touches the screen, moves around as usual, and then sends an UP even when the finger leaves the screen.

    I’m astonished on how poorly you have researched this. It’s extremely frustrating because most people do not understand the inner workings of a flash application and just listen to what “experts” such as yourself say.

    [So you point out that mouseovers work independent of mousedown events (yes, this is the difference between pointing and clicking with a mouse), but then say it’s all good on touch because you touch and get a mousedown event. Well, the problem is that in a touch environment, there is no difference between pointing and clicking.

    That is, incidentally, why users had to be trained on how to use a mouse in the early 80s, but nobody has to teach users how to use a touch environment. Unless, that is, they’re trying to sell them a touch device that uses legacy Flash apps that were designed for a mouse. – Dan ]

  • mattlundstrom

    This debate ends here:

    [But only if you’re a simpleton rube wowed by overt propaganda. Adobe demonstrated select titles running on Windows 7, failing to address the real issues presented by the Flash developer who wrote the above article. Flash Blog is written by the same “platform evangelist” who so overstepped sanity that Adobe had to censor his rant. – Dan]

  • dazweeja

    What’s your non-simpleton take on this more detailed explanation of how touch events (including mouse-over) are handled in Flash 10.1 then:


  • dazweeja

    Sorry Dan, overwrote the link on the clipboard because I can’t log into your site on Firefox through Squid. Here’s the correct one:


  • fen

    > Adobe demonstrated select titles running on Windows 7,

    You’ve been informed already several times that the same demos are up on Android. You’re clearly not interested in knowing whether the claims made in this article are true, merely in arguing with people who show contrary evidence.

    If you still believe the claims in this post, let’s see some evidence for a change – name one real website that should suffer from the problems you’re claiming. If the problem is this widespread, surely you can think of an example. Somebody with a beta device can test it.

  • Chipotle

    This is really kind of a pointless argument, folks. Events that can be easily translated to touch events, like clicks, will be. Events that can’t be, like rollovers, won’t be. Doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Flash or Cocoa or Javascript. Code that relies on things that don’t exist in a touch-based interface will have to be rewritten. Code that doesn’t, won’t. Ta-da.

    This is a pointless argument because the iPad can’t use Flash. Period. It can’t use Flash because Apple says it can’t use Flash. Maybe you think that’s stupid. If you’re right, then eventually non-Apple mobile platforms will be full of dazzling, must-have stuff that’s not available on the iPhone and iPad, and Apple will either change their policy or see their mobile devices fade into oblivion. (And if Apple continues to have a thriving platform even without the presence of Flash, then y’know, that means it probably wasn’t that stupid a call on their part after all, no matter how much it may get your goat.)

  • dazweeja

    @Chipotle, I think the point that some people here are trying to make is that rollover/hover events *do* work in Flash on touchscreen devices without any rewriting. Good examples that might come to mind when people think of Flash content that relies on hover events are the controls on many video players. They work fine. The existing Flash content that doesn’t work is rare, not common. Did you see any of the links that have already been posted?


    Also, read the link in my last post for a more detailed explanation of touchscreen support in Flash Player 10.1.

  • fen

    Indeed, the salient point is that Flash only has a certain number of events, and they all get dispatched from both touch and mouse interactions. The only way you can really go about building content to break is by putting important interactions inside hover events, and specifically disabling them every time a mouse_down takes place and re-enabling them when the mouse is released. Which you can do if you like, of course, but it’s absurd to go around saying that “most” or “all” content uses such an odd style of interaction.

    With that said though, dazweeja, I think the trouble with the video people keep linking is that Dan won’t have any take on it at all. In this post he relayed arguments that were supposed to support a conclusion he agrees with, but his agreement was never actually based on those arguments. He believed it before the arguments were made, because he’s the kind of person who says things like “flashtard”, so it’s natural that he should continue believing in it after the arguments turn out not to reflect reality.

    Unfortunately I think this is what tends to happen when non-developers speculate on technology… People who program must unavoidably keep accurate opinions on the tech they use, or they won’t be able to make anything, but people who merely comment are under no such obligation.

  • Chipotle

    @dazweeja: I did see the videos and I’ve read some of the documentation from Adobe on this. My comment wasn’t about Flash, per se, as much as about the futility of this argument. :) Mr. Dilger’s mind is pretty clearly made up and I don’t think he’s interested in whether Adobe has actually solved these problems in the upcoming release. But it really doesn’t matter whether he remains unconvinced or not, since on a practical level it’s about what Apple wants on their platform and so far Flash is clearly not something they want. Demonstrating that Flash 10.1 will figure out the right events to map from touch to mouse and so there won’t need to be as many changes as one might think is only going to go so far. I’m not entirely convinced by Mike Chambers’ demo in that it seems to be sending an awful lot of events at once (it’s the rollover-click-down-up event!), but even if that works great it doesn’t take advantage of the touch interface very well: using multitouch will require new code, and some serious UI rethinking. Remember, Apple are the bastards who left off arrow keys from the original Mac expressly to make it difficult to port apps that relied on them because they wanted to push the mouse. Replace “mouse” with “multitouch” here.

    Again, in practice it’s going to be a market decision. If Apple is wrong to cut Flash out and to make it difficult to use anything but their own approved languages, they’ll find out the hard way. The problem is that right now the market really isn’t punishing them for the choices they’ve made. (The recent reports that there are now more Android devices being sold than iPhones is the first chink in the armor, but that’s a rebuke to their exclusivity with AT&T, I suspect.)

  • davesmall

    Adobe’s customer is the developer who wants his work to run the same on multiple platforms. That’s what Adobe is selling – cross platform development tools. According to Adobe, it’s a good thing for customers if applications are the same on various platforms.

    Well now, I’m a customer and I prefer Apple’s products. I could care less if they run on Windows or Linux or whatever. Furthermore, I dislike applications like TweetDeck that have an unfamiliar user interface. I think that was developed on one of Adobe’s platforms.

    Apple must believe that companies like Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, Palm, HP, Google, Dell, and Research in Motion are all working hard to create iPhone and iPad knock-offs. I think that’s obviously true. Before the iPhone there was nothing like it. Now these companies are all coming out with iPhone knock-offs. So why should Apple assist them in their copying efforts by making it easier for them to run software created for Apple’s platforms?

    Seems to me that Steve Jobs arguments are pretty much correct. It is in Apple’s best interests, Apple customer’s best interest, and loyal Apple developer’s (those who write Apps using the Apple SDK and Objective C) to discourage cross-platform developer tools. So what if Flash developed products would run OK on the iPhone? That’s not the point.

  • fen

    As a developer, I would agree with every word you said if Apple was simply encouraging obj-C apps and discouraging platform layers. But they’re not, they’re legally requiring everyone to use one tool over another. What if future revisions to obj-C suck, and developers would be more productive writing their logic in Lua? Tough, they’re legally required to use obj-C even if it’s not the best choice. What if Unity3D does some mad innovation, and allows developers to build apps that run faster than they would if made in obj-C? Tough, devs will be legally required to use the worse technology. It’s the very definition of stifling innovation.

    But you’re right that the change is in Apple’s best interest. It’s just not in user’s best interest, and it’s very very very not in developer’s best interest. I mean, there’s no getting around it – if obj-C is best, developers and users can choose it. The problem is that if obj-C isn’t best, they’re still legally prevented from choosing anything else.

  • http://www.thecosmonaut.com TheCosmonaut

    fen has said it all.

    Dan, your whole premise of this article is, in your own words:
    “Current Flash sites could never be made work well on any touchscreen device… because of the hover or mouseover problem…. They are coded to rely on the difference between hovering over something (mouseover) vs. actually clicking.”

    So if this is the point of your article, let’s ignore “slow mobile performance, battery drain or crashes” as you say.

    Now, go and watch the video at http://theflashblog.com/?p=2027. Check out the video links to examples on Android devices provided in the comments above. Recognize that whether a cursor is visible on the screen or not, the same programming elements are happening in the background.

    You could also try installing CloudBrowse and going to a Flash site to see how it works (although CloudBrowse barely ever can connect).

    Now realize that your original argument, namely that current Flash sites won’t work because of the need for rollover & click, is proven incorrect.

    No big deal – there’s plenty of other reasons to rant against Flash for Apple. Just admit that you got this one wrong :)

    [You can keep insisting that you’re right and that you understand the issue, but just consider: the people disagreeing with you are a) a professional Flash developer who wrote the article I published b) Steve Jobs, who knows something about how Flash works and investigated putting it on the iPhone before rejecting it c) Me. In contrast, the person blowing smoke up your ass is the “platform advocate” of Flash, paid by Adobe to blog things that are often completely ridiculous, as his last post I mentioned, where Adobe actually had to edit his hysterics to avoid embarrassment.

    Consider the potential that you’re failing to grasp the concept of critical thinking – Dan ]

  • genegibson

    The only potential “solutions” to the mouseover problem are terrible ones:
    How about F: When a keyboard or Bluetooth mouse are attached, a Flash plugin works (from a Settings option).
    — As large as the onscreen keyboard is on the iPad, I’m not going to learn how to “hunt & peck” again. I know how to type, and if I’m going to do any serious wordprocessing, I’m going to use a full sized keyboard. And, it can’t be something projected on a flat surface. Knowing where certain starting keys are located (by feel, and you can’t do that with a completely smooth surface) is necessary to touch typing.

    But, what I would really like is voice command or voice to text that was relatively accurate. Nuance has a product that is very close on the PC side.

    Flickr could come up with a Flash alternative to it’s Slideshow, but I’m currently enamored by Prezi (which is Flash based).

  • fen


    > the people disagreeing with you are a) a professional Flash developer

    Are you serious? I’m a professional Flash developer, and almost surely have been so for longer than your source (since 2000). I’m sure many other commenters are too. More importantly, the author of your article is a Flash developer who, when he was writing, had never seen Flash 10 on mobile devices. He was speculating; we are not.

    > b) Steve Jobs, who knows something about how Flash works

    Steve Jobs, who recently attacked Adobe for being slow to move to Cocoa even though iTunes and Final Cut haven’t moved yet. Messaging from Steve Jobs is marketing, not technical information.

    > c) Me.

    i.e. a non-developer who, so far, has not been able to name a single website that suffers or will suffer the problems predicted in this article.

  • http://www.thecosmonaut.com TheCosmonaut

    @Dan J
    Well, let’s consider your sources:
    a) a professional Flash developer
    Guess what – I am too. Over a decade worth of experience. So are a number of other commenters who disagree. And it appears that a some staff at Gizmodo agree with us as well. Critical thinking: because one Flash developer says it’s so doesn’t make it so. Particularly when evidence has been presented to the contrary.

    [I have to say I find it annoying and irritating that you think I should respond to this platform advocate/evangelist’s troll as if it’s a credible argument that demands serious attention. Also, you can cite yourself as a Flash developer with an informed opinion if you like, but once you claim anyone from Gizmodo as having something to contribute in terms of analytical skills, it again becomes difficult to take your position seriously. – Dan]

    b) Steve Jobs
    Where did Steve Jobs say that Flash couldn’t be used on iPad because of the rollover (non-)issue? Critical thinking: This is the premise of your blog post. Steve Jobs doesn’t support your assertion. You can’t cite him as support.

    [The idea that navigation and gameplay is often dependent upon mouseovers is established in the article and you acknowledge it below. The idea in general that Flash isn’t optimized as a platform for building touch-based interfaces but is subject to improvement as Adobe patches up its platform is a subject open to debate, but the fact that existing Flash content is dependent upon this is not controversial. Therefore Adobe’s claim that today’s existing Flash content is desperately important is completely undermined by the reality that none of it, from mouseover-dependent games to non-optimized video playback, really has all that much value at all. It’s all obsolete and going away, so it doesn’t matter if Adobe can fix some specific element. It’s irrelevant.

    Jobs referenced Flash’s lack of multitouch support in general terms, because the details are boring. The fact is, we can all work really hard here on out to entrench Flash as a future standard, or we can work on web standards and continue to build something that Adobe (or any other one company with interests in contrast to everyone else) doesn’t own. There’s a reason why people who are finically dependent upon Adobe are for Flash, and everyone who wants things to just work well doesn’t care that much about it. ]

    c) Me
    I have to say, you don’t seem like a trusted source. You’re not a developer, you seem to have a clear bias in favor of Apple and are vehemently anti-Adobe (how many articles have you written as cricism of Adobe?), and have been unable to present any logical argument or citation for an exterior source to support your argument. By contrast, you’ve been presented with a number of options which disprove your argument, including:

    [This is why I won’t be responding to your future comments. You are being a complete dick. You throw out a bunch of unfounded claims, and then fellate a hysterical Adobe shill. I can’t respect that. You’re being a troll wasting my time without a real point. ]

    * http://theflashblog.com/?p=2027 (you assert that this guy is hysterical and seem to imply therefore that his video was doctored or misleading in some fashion. Ok, so let’s ignore this link)
    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIl1k7wX7Fk (this video shows how they addressed the lack of a literal mouse in mobile platforms. Seems like the rollover issue is a non-issue again. However, since this guy is an Adobe evangelist, you may assert this reference must be ignored as well. OK)
    * As suggested, try running CloudBrowse on your iPhone, going to a Flash website, and attempting to interact with it. While the app is slow as hell, you can see that interaction works just fine.
    Critical thinking: Should I take the word of someone who ignores multiple sources of evidence yet provides none of his own?

    [The evidence is that the most successful smartphone is doing fine without Flash, as are the most successful media players and tablets. In fact, the only people bleating about how great Flash is are people like you, who make their living from it. There is no evidence you’re presenting here, just some attempts to ignore the overall problem and concentrate on pointless ways to find reasons why the industry should stand on its head to make excuses for and complex solutions to solve portions of the problem, so you can keep doing what you did and continue to profit from your relationship with Adobe. You’re acting like you’ve won an argument. You haven’t, you’ve just trolled out paragraphs of answers to the wrong questions. You think you are so very smart, but I disagree.]

    By the way: I think the big bone of contention here is not whether gestural devices CAN support mouseovers (all the links above demonstrate that it IS possible).

    [That was never the issue. Did you even read the article? ]

    The bone of contention comes from two assumptions that Morgan makes:

    » Assumption #1: “The use of rollovers is so widespread in Flash applications, and so important to their functionality, that the loss of the rollover renders such a majority of Flash sites useless as to make Flash unusable.” Unfortunately, the reality just isn’t so. While Mouse_Over events are definitely used in Flash applications, most Flash websites usethem simply as decorative rollover effects. Most video players will pause and display controls on click, then stay visible for a period of time, allowing you to click and then control them. All other examples (such as tooltips, maps and diagrams, etc.) are basic “web” functionalities that apply to JavaScript as well as Flash, and it is therefore illogical to say that Flash is impossible to use while JavaScript is OK. I will agree, however, that a large number games will be broken without the mouse_over ability. Does that really mean that it is fundamentally “illogical” to use Flash? I would say no, but I have a feeling you will disagree :)
    » Assumption #2: “The only potential ‘solutions’ to the mouseover problem are terrible ones.” Most of the examples of Flash sites working fine on gestural devices that I provide above use Morgan’s solution D) Having a visible mouse pointer. Morgan seems to feel that the visible mouse pointer is so awful as to render the whole gestural device pointless. I would argue that the examples provided above demonstrate that the solution is far from awful, and in fact provides an excellent user experience. Additionally, his assumption also rests on the premise that the only possible solutions are the ones he offers. With all due respect to Morgan, I believe there are other solutions out there. (Assuming it NEEDS to be solved in the first place… see my argument against Assumption #1).

    Nobody likes admitting they’re wrong. Just man up and do it on this point :D Believe me, you have PLENTY of other, valid reasons to criticize Adobe!

    [Not only are Morgan’s “assumptions” well presented, but you even agree with them enough to where your counter-arguments are irrelevant. And your huffing about non-important tangents fails to grasp that the problem here is Flash, not Apple’s lack of support for a player that doesn’t yet exist, not my articles pointing out the fallacy of Adobe’s arguments and its specious attacks that have no merit. The problem is that Flash is a shitty substitute for web standards within the browser, for a lot of interlocking reasons. You can’t pick at one part of the overall argument and say, “hey, there’s a way we could make this touch stuff work if we do a bunch of clumsy backward stuff to support a terrible platform that is slow, full of bugs, riddled with security holes by design, and really doesn’t need to exist.”

    That’s not an argument, certainly not something I have to “concede” to you, and I’m left ashamed to have entered into a discussion where your ridiculous trolling has wasted my time. I might as well be arguing with the idea that life can not shift genetically and all the species on earth were handmade by a supernatural creator a few thousand years ago.

    Flash sucks, we knew that long before the iPhone showed up. Did you miss the memo on Java clients not being all that? It got passed around like ten years ago. Having another version of the same thing with not just greater dependance upon a single vendor, but having that vendor being the clusterfuck that is Adobe, is not an improvement that is going to make Flash/Flex a superior replacement for desktop Java, let alone JavaME. It’s pretty clearly the same turd with a different owner – Dan ]

  • http://www.thecosmonaut.com TheCosmonaut

    @Dan J
    LOL – well, I guess you should have written THAT article instead of the one you did. :)

    Can you look beyond your knee-jerk reactions to see that I’m not arguing that Flash is awesome? I’m just saying this: This post argues that Flash CAN’T work on gestural devices because rollovers won’t work. That argument is obviously wrong.

    I’m all for criticism of Adobe. I love my iPhone. I’m all for getting rid of Flash in favor of open standards. jQuery is a beautiful thing. If I could program tomorrow in JavaScript and HTML5 what I can do today in Flash, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    What I’m not all for is people taking an illogical premise, presenting it as fact, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, and then attempting to introduce new points when their argument is refuted. If you want to label anyone as a supporter of “grand design” in this argument, I’m afraid it’s you, my friend.

    You write good stuff. This is a well-run site. Everyone gets things wrong from time to time. It’s OK! :D

  • MinuteWalt

    Morgan does not make a compelling argument as to why Apple and Flash don’t mix. It is, however, a great argument that touch-screen UIs don’t mix with applications designed for mouses and keyboards.

    All of Morgan’s points focus around UI, and that has nothing to do with what’s currently happening with the whole Flash/Apple hissy fit.

    I currently have a all-in-one PC with a touch screen, and for kicks, I tried a bunch of different things totally mouse-free tonight. (I don’t think I’ve actually tried to use the touch-screen much before tonight in fact! I’ve got a mouse and a full keyboard, & the concept of having a touch-screen when you have a keyboard and a mouse RIGHT THERE in front of you frankly baffled me, but this is what they gave me for an RMI’d hardware failure replacement for my old system.)

    The results were mixed: I was able to watch Flash-based media sites and navigate most other websites just dandy, but games and applications were between “meh” and “unworkable.”

    That’s it. Whoo-hoo.

    Using a touch UI didn’t totally kill the content that I can’t (currently) get on my mobile device. In most cases, it didn’t affect it at all (Hulu, Ze Frank, and many others that are based on Flash). In some, not even related to Flash, it just made things weird (copy-and-paste vs. scrolling: which on would you give up?) In some cases (mostly games, Flash and not-Flash), touching was simply unviable.

    And that’s OK with me.

    I understand that using a mobile will not give me the same experience. Users of mobile devices don’t care: we KNOW that we’re not getting 100% of a website, because we’re holding a phone or tablet in our hands instead of a keyboard and monitor that has to sit on a table or on our laps.

    So, the UI argument is kind of semi-valid.

    Yeah, mouse-over vs. click does something important, but not all that important. Most applications don’t need it, many are slightly less functional without it. Some applications that are made for things-that-are-not-phones-or-tablets, would be completely crippled by the UI issue. And these are applications like word processors and video games that you’d probably want to access on your desktop anyway, because the UI is better.

    What it boils down to is this:

    I can’t access a huge portion of the internet from my portable device. I’d be OK with some kind of broken access; it’s better than no access at all. Broken access is what you get with a portable device anyway. It’s expected that a 4×2 handheld won’t give you the same experience of a desktop.

    Garbage-y Flash games have brought my tower to a standstill on many occasions, and would probably do the same thing to my phone. This happened tonight, in fact, and I had to use Task Manager to kill my browser more than once. But many phone apps have decided that they needed my phone’s resources more than, say, my ability to call people. That’s just bad programming, and has little to do with the runtime that it was built on.

    So I gotta say, mousing habits won’t affect most users’ experiences beyond what what we have to get used to when switching from a desktop to a portable touchscreen device. UI conflicts are important, but they don’t really break the user experience at this point.

    spoken from the viewpoint of a user who has used touch UI to experience non-portable developed content

  • lporiginalg

    The argument that flash shouldn’t be on the iPad because it uses Mouse_Overs, Roll_Overs…completely baffles me. Find me a website on the web that doesn’t make use of mouse_overs. Ever hold your mouse over an html hyperlink? Notice something called a CSS Hover ?

    So if flash worked on the ipad, maybe we have to port our desktop flash site/app to a mobile version. Kind of like non flash sites. When you go to facebook mobile you don’t get the facebook desktop site, you get one designed for mobile devices? Why should it be any different for flash and for those of use flash developers who find it worth the extra development time to port our flash apps for mobile at least have the option?

    I for one find this argument not be stronger than the other arguments (battery life, badwidth) but much weaker since unlike the other problems this can be easily addressed by porting the flash site to be MOBILE. Something you have to do weather your site is flash or not ANYWAY.

    Let’s face it Steve Jobs has had a stick up his craw ever since Flash knocked quicktime off the webdar 10 years ago and he’s probably been plotting this ever since.

    I don’t think flash is dead at all I think it will continue on for many many years to come and I personally will continue boycotting all apple products as I have done my entire life, because from what I’ve seen every single apple product ever made is over-priced and comes with restrictions that are not present on similar products you can buy cheaper.

    [It’s kind of absurd to say Jobs has some personal problem with Flash, given that Mac OS 8, 9 & X supported it all along, and that Jobs’ initial response to ‘will the iPhone have Flash’ was “maybe” (and not “no,” as it was for Java). But if that makes you feel better, why not believe it, just like some people embrace homeopathy and psychic surgery and whatever other mythology calms them down. – Dan ]

  • http://www.bonjour-assistance.fr/ assistance informatique colmar

    Following reading your comments, I better understand why Apple does not use the IPAD technology adobe flash.
    In fact I support Apple in this reasoning.
    Long live HTML 5 Now!

  • http://brinkwerks.com BRINKwerks

    retweeted. this post settled the apple/adobe iOS/flash question for me. really appreciate the information, especially the backstory behind the issue. | used mac in school ’88-’96, pc user since ’92, am feeling a sort of inertia back to mac. this post pulled me further along. hype aside, i think it’s mainly been about developing a sense of the value of the package to overcome the cheapsk8 in me. thanks for posting.

  • Jaken7857

    The Nokia N900 has no problem rendering flash in full because it supports mouse hovering and full desktop adobe flash 9.4 (Flash support for 10.1 is available with a tweak to the software). It has a resistive touch screen and when you swipe the stylus from off the screen to the right, a mouse appears. You can manipulate the mouse with the stylus, which does not obscure the screen like a finger would, and click using the space bar on the physical keyboard. I have played everything from robot unicorn attack to shooting and action games that require precise mouse movements. It is the only phone on the market that can do this. It’s operating system is the only one of its kind on the market in it’s class, excluding it’s predecessor the N810, which was not a phone but an internet tablet. I have not come across a single flash site that I could not manipulate or view on this phone. This phone was designed for developers and not the comercial market, so it had more of a full desk top experience in mind, complete with root terminal access. Phones like the Android and Iphone are marketed to those who want a phone that has a flashy interface, but not fully capable like a computer. The N900 can run any linux or debian program I throw at it, and has a full desktop experience, right down to bit torrent clients and full hacking potential right out of the box. If phone OS developers started to design phones with a desktop computer experience in mind and a phone second, then flash would not have to take such a radical step in reformating sites to run on mobile operating systems.

    [Oddly enough, cars aren’t designed primarily with mechanics in mind, but rather to be appealing to consumers.

    Also, sales figures for the entire N700-N900 line should provide you with an answer about how successful Nokia’s whole “package a desktop PC in a small form factor” has been. Didn’t work so well for Microsoft’s Tablet PC either. What’s the most popular smartphone on Earth? Oh right, the iPhone and its “flashy interface.”

    Perhaps if people like you were running Nokia, it would be falling from its position as the world’s largest phone maker into a tailspin of crisis. Oh wait, they are and it is. At least their nerdy Internet Tablet can run the majority of yesterday’s Flash content! – Dan]

  • enzos

    You’re too cruel, Dan; Jaken seems like a harmless geek with an enthusiasm for 1990s-style software and gee-whiz gadgetry.

  • wawa

    It’s sooooo annoying that iPad can’t use flash. I wish Apple had big signs that “flash don’t work on iPad”. I wouldn’t have bought one. Huge waste of money. There’s also so many things you can do on a regular Mac that you can’t on an iPad. Every 10 minutes I have to look something up right to figure out how to do one thing. I’m not sure what its good for beside giant surf the net, emails and giant calculator all of which are available on my iPhone. I guess apple never thought about why we loved their product in the 1st pl. it did everything with ease and I didn’t have to think! Now I have to think. I don’t have time for that. I guess I’m on the wrong message broad, should be complaining to Apple. But

  • wawa

    … Some useful info on here thou. Don’t like the no cant happen attitude. Read & learned & read a lot on here. I think someone even mentioned a unicorn at some point. All I know, from all the postings here, is that IT’S POSSIBLE so make it happen!! Please :) it doesn’t make sense to me to invent technology (the touch screen) that can’t support something that already being wildly and widely used (flash).