Should I care about Flash?

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[Screen grab: NYT.com with flash blocked.]

John Gruber writes a typically thought-provoking piece about Flash, the ubiquitous software platform that designers and marketers love because it enables animation and video that make a website act just like a TV or interactive game. Except, that is, when people do what I do and use things like the Firefox browser plugin Flashblock that keeps Flash from taking over my browser — unless I want it to.

Flash can be great. But more often than not, it just slows down a web page. I grew so frustrated with Flash that I installed Flashblock months ago and haven’t looked back. Developers — and excuse me, marketers, but we’re the worst — use Flash for reasons like: “Our boss likes it when the photo whisks across the window” or “The client wants the site to look more modern.”

So, for reasons of pleasing the boss and the desire to look “more modern,” a software platform that is buggy and sloppy and many times, at odds with the marketing objectives of clients (check out how I see those invisible Flash ads on the front of NYT.com), Flash is used — and it pleases bosses and clients who view their ads and websites on controlled platforms.

Gruber (echoing a post from Robert Scoble) suggests there’s a better way to accomplish video and animation and interactivity than using Flash: web standards that support video without a Flash plugin.

There are those who say that the iPad will fail because it doesn’t support Flash (however, that non-support doesn’t seem to have deterred the iPhone’s success). Perhaps, however, it will be the iPad that finally breaks the back of the Flash cartel. Developers, as Gruber suggests, must decide if they are “Flash” developers or animation/video developers.

Likewise, I’ll add, they will soon have to decide if they are iPad developers, or open apps developers.

What a great — and chaotic — time to be living.

Bonus: Dave Winer joins in the discussion.

Later: The NYT examines the Apple-Flash issue in an article in Monday’s paper.

When it comes to the future, you have two choices

I have read with interest and appreciation the thoughtful responses to the introduction of the iPad. If you ignore those who label individuals who disagree with them “idiots” etc., this product announcement has inspired some really smart and articulate people to explain bedrock concepts of media business models, marketplace dynamics and a wide range of conceptual, philosophical and political approaches to technology.

I won’t attempt to explain what each of these points of view are as I’m still sorting out the various shades of meaning individuals have when they use the phrases “opened” and “closed,” for example.

To people outside the bubble of technology development and content distribution, “open” is the opposite of “closed.” But for those who spend their days and nights pondering and pursuing entrepreneurial opportunity or those who have fought against the constant attempts by corporations to lock-in consumers to a proprietary channel, the words “opened” and “closed” can mean vastly different things.

As I’ve said before, I am glad the iPad is finally a reality because it gives all of us something that points to what comes next.

What comes next might be the first and second and future iterations of what the iPad will be.

Or what comes next might be the reactions to what is wrong with the iPad.

As a marketer and strategist and media experimenter — and for those marketers who choose me to help them figure out such things — I, like everyone else, have two choices.

1. I can immerse myself in the chaos of the new, trying to discover how (or if) these new devices will change the way customers (buyers, members, donors, readers, viewers, users, etc.) discover new products and create new types of markets — be they opened or closed.

2. Stand by and watch, while others slog and fight their ways through the next few years while figuring it out.

I’ve decided that for me, standing by and watching is no longer an option.

I’m not living at this incredible moment in time to spectate.

What geeks and marketers can learn from the next 60 days

I woke up today to hear two NPR stories about the iPad.

Story 1 was a technology analyst blasting the device because it doesn’t have a camera and so, therefore, isn’t taking advantage of social media.

Story 2 was a publishing analyst describing the device as a savior of book publishing.

Of course, both of these analysts are right — and wrong.

The first analyst sees the iPad as a Swiss Army Knife that left off a cork screw and being a wine lover, he can’t understand why anyone would want a Swiss Army Knife without a cork screw.

The second analyst sees the iPad as a Kindle with color and video that will enable publishers to have an alternative to the pricing on Amazon — which publishers hate.

Like I said, both are right — and wrong.

Over the next 60 days, Apple will start bombarding the channels of traditional (old) media defining what one can do with the iPad. They will never mention features. Only what one can do.

The people who purchase the iPad will use it 90% of the time to do 4-5 things they’d rather do on the move than sitting at a computer.

The people who purchase the iPad will use it because they already own an iPhone and would like to watch movies or read books or tweak a presentation on a 9 1/2 inch screen rather than a micro-screen.

The people who purchase the iPad will use it because it will help them define themselves to those around them.

I could go on-and-on about the reasons people who purchase it will do so.

Watch. Learn.

It’s not about features something has or does not have.

And it’s not about what missing features prevent someone from doing.

It’s about what the existing features enable someone to do.

That’s all.

Bonus linkage: As I’ve said often, the only person worth reading on this topic is John Gruber. Again, his perspective is original and insightful.

Google gets a little glue-like

Many people know I’m a fan of a web service called Glue (although it’s at the URL, “getglue.com”, not glue).

I allow the service to follow me around the web and it gives me the chance to thumbs up or thumbs down products, books, movies, music. I have a hard time explaining what it is, especially when I say something like, “It’s like Foursquare, but you check in when you hit a page on Wikipedia instead of when you go to a restaurant.”

There are many cool things about Glue (the way it demonstrates the concept of “the semantic web” is worthy of deep study, for example), but its primary benefit at this point is the way in which is allows you to see how your friends have reviewed products. Think about that. Typically, on the web, when you go to a book page on Amazon.com, you read reviews from strangers. Glue allows you to see reviews from your own network of contacts. Not only movies, but whatever categories of products and topics you select, from gadgets to wine.

This concept, which I’ve been fascinated with for a couple of years — since I first started using Glue — the ability to interact with a network of people throughout the web, rather than in a specific URL-fenced-in area — has influenced my perception of what the web can one day be. It points to a future in which we won’t go to Facebook or Linked-in or Twitter to interact with a network of connections: We will interact with them wherever we find ourselves throughout the web.

Today, Google took a step in this direction by announcing that someone who is logged into Google and who has associated their Google profile with corresponding identities on social networks and other social media, will have their search results interspersed with relevant reviews or comments from people in their networks of contacts on those services.

This is a rather big deal that, like most anything that involves “identity,” can be both beneficial and alarming. Beneficial, if you discover a bad review of a movie posted by someone you personally trust — say, a college film profession you friended on Facebook. Alarming if you ponder how many points of data about you that Google has to collect in order to pull this off.

Quick thoughts on the iPad before being influenced by the crowd

I’ve been snowed under since “the announcement.”

Here are some quick thoughts before I read what others have written:

1. No where in the marketing materials or presentation (except for a slide with a quote from Walt Mossberg) are the words “slate” or “tablet” used. As I have predicted before, Apple created a new category of device that will be called “pad” media. This is not a tablet — not to be compared with a tablet, they’ll argue.

2. Why the iPad is the best name? It drafts off billions of dollars of brand investment in the iPod. And it describes the physical nature of the device.

3. As predicted, there is, among the geekiratti, the tendency to focus on what it “doesn’t” have. That’s great. Apple can hold the iPad up and say, “this is what the product is” and others can focus on what it doesn’t have. For example, I wanted a camera for video conferencing. I’ll have to wait for another year or so for that.

4. It’s pretty amazing to me how close the device is to the, frankly, made up stuff I used to envision the product to be.

5. Why did Jason Calicanus so blatantly lie on Twitter last night — and why did the Wall Street Journal pick up his tweets and treat them like fact.

6. Only losers will use the keyboard dock.