To Flash or Not to Flash? That is the question.

Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash has been around for many years and is generally regarded as the go-to choice for Internet marketers that want to display animation or facilitate game-like interactivity on a Web site.  Adobe sells its Flash-creating software to Web designers and gives the Flash plug-in away freely to Web surfers.  You can find it on many Web sites on the Internet.

But there is trouble brewing for Flash because Apple is moving away from supporting Flash in many of its popular devices.  Namely, the iPhone and iPad do not support Flash at all.  Apple chief Steve Jobs has written an open letter explaining this stance.  Users of these devices who access a Web site in Flash receive an error message.  With the continued growth of the iPhone and iPad, this presents a real problem for Web site owners.

Not all device manufacturers agree with Apple.  In fact, many are taking a stance in direct opposition.  The biggest advocate for Flash is Google, whose Android operating system stands behind Flash.  It’s unclear how this will all shake out, but it is certainly likely that there will be both winners and losers.

Until this is settled, it is likely wise to limit the use of Flash in developing / conceiving your Web site, especially if the development costs are high and iPad / iPhone users are in your likely target market.  You may find yourself in a situation where your Web site is altogether unusable by a great deal of your customers/users.  At the very least, iPhone and iPad users will receive an error message when they visit your site.

If you truly need Flash to accomplish something on your Web site, be sure to offer users some sort of mobile-friendly alternative so they won’t be frustrated.  At the very least, provide them with mobile-friendly contact information so they know how to reach you via phone.  And in the mean time, be sure to monitor the Flash “soap opera” that appears to be a source of tug-of-war for those competing in the mobile device marketplace.