Why Did Apple Ban Flash? Look at Twitter

Scott Francis
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The tempest in a teapot last week in the twitter-verse was all about how Twitter cut UberTwitter clients off from its API, which looked like a platform-vs-app battle between Twitter and UberMedia (Bill Gross’ company). But as Mark Suster says in the linked article, when Twitter cut off UberTwitter clients – it wasn’t really hurting UberTwitter as much as it was hurting its own users.  Users with literally millions of followers use UberTwitter.  But many of the followers do not.  So by cutting off these clients, Twitter was implicitly (explicitly?) cutting the social connections from the glitterati to the following.  To me, Twitter ends up looking like the bad guy in these scuffles, even when it might seem that they’re right. What does this have to do with Apple? It banned Flash preemptively  from iOS devices- putting up with the beating it took in the press – so that it wouldn’t look like even more of a bad guy later by severing users from Flash apps that it deemed either unstable or security risks (or simply, not “Apple” enough). Because when your users depend on a particular UI candy that you don’t control, and there are enough of them, the purveyors of that UI start to get leverage on your platform – if you do things to disable that UI, or punish the vendors of the UI, you are also punishing your own users. Of course, UberMedia could have had an alternate plumbing set up to keep users’ messages flowing during this outage – outside of Twitter.  But Adobe is in a tougher spot because developing a tablet or phone just to prove you can run Flash on it is a much more expensive end-around.  They’re still waiting on their hardware and software partners to come out with the killer combination that proves Adobe Flash will run just as well on mobile devices as HTML5 / iOS. I can’t say I’m happy that I can’t run Flash on my phone.  But I’m not sad either.  Not as sad as I’d be if my favorite, Twitter client, say, ran on Flash and then was abruptly disabled because Apple decided to enforce rules against Flash.  (Oh wait, that’s exactly what Apple appears to be doing with its new subscription rules… )

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