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Google and Apple Join Forces in Adobe Flash Hypocrisy

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Last April, Steve Jobs put his opposition toward Adobe Flash into words. He posted an open letter, titled "Thoughts on Flash," on the Apple website. Focusing on the "closed" nature of the proprietary software and criticizing Adobe's stringent control, Jobs managed to negate all the unfavorable qualities of Flash due to the similarities with Apple. In the letter, he writes:

Adobe's Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe's Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

As I noted in April, how is that any different from Apple?

Since posting his letter, Jobs has eased his company's prohibition of Flash on its mobile devices and allowed developers to design apps using Adobe's software. The mobile web browsers, however, still do not play Flash videos. Well, at least that's something.

But speaking of duplicitous positions on Adobe Flash, Apple got some company this week.

In its Chromium Blog, Google announced it will be dropping support of the very popular -- and Apple-championed -- video codec H.264:

Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.

These changes will occur in the next couple months but we are announcing them now to give content publishers and developers using HTML <video> an opportunity to make any necessary changes to their sites.

In other words, like Apple, Google is dropping support of a format under the pretense that it isn't "open" enough -- despite its support of other "closed" properties. In Google's case, that's Adobe Flash. Google will continue to pre-install Adobe Flash on the Chrome browser and OS. And although Flash allows for third parties to develop Flash players and SWF creation tools, Google embeds Adobe's version of the plugin.

Also, the WebM video codec Google developed, it is open technology. But since it's created and managed by Google, you can understand why it's being backed by Google.

In light of the move, Daring Fireball's John Gruber posed a few necessary questions:

  1. In addition to supporting H.264, Chrome currently bundles an embedded version of Adobe’s closed source and proprietary Flash Player plugin. If H.264 support is being removed to "enable open innovation," will Flash Player support be dropped as well? If not, why?
  2. Android currently supports H.264. Will this support be removed from Android? If not, why not?
  3. YouTube uses H.264 to encode video. Presumably, YouTube will be re-encoding its entire library using WebM. When this happens, will YouTube’s support for H.264 be dropped, to "enable open innovation?" If not, why not?
  4. Do you expect companies like Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, Major League Baseball, and anyone else who currently streams H.264 to dual-encode all of their video using WebM? If not, how will Chrome users watch this content other than by resorting to Flash Player’s support for H.264 playback?
  5. Who is happy about this?

Occasionally, limiting the number of choices for a user may be in their best interest and the best defense against the "tyranny of choice."

But it is the very opposite of being "open."
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