In anticipation of Saturday’s release of the iPad — which doesn’t run Flash — Apple has published a list of “iPad Ready” websites.
The sites are all big league sluggers like CNN, The New York Times, People Magazine and MLB.com. Surprisingly, there are also a few video-heavy sites in the mix (Vimeo, Flickr, and TED) which would traditionally rely on Flash Player for video playback.
And why would Apple ever ease up? The more the web relies on open technologies, the more iPad buyers will be able to do with their shiny new devices, and the more satisfied they will be.
In the two months since the iPad was announced, Apple has been waging a campaign urging web developers to stop using Adobe Flash Player and to use HTML5 for video playback instead. But while the most forward-looking developers are rushing to optimize their websites for Flash-less mobiles and tablets, many are wary of embracing open video whole hog. There’s no agreed-upon video format for HTML5, and the support varies greatly from browser to browser.
It puts developers in a pickle: build a killer video experience for Apple devices, but leave Firefox, IE and Opera users out (Google Chrome offers different support on different platforms).
Some are going the route of falling back on Flash for any users not browsing with Safari. But that path — coding multiple versions of a website for multiple browsers — is precisely what developers have been trying to avoid for the last decade. It also opens up a can of patent license worms.
It’s also important to note that HTML5 isn’t just for video playback. It’s a substantial redesign of the way web pages are assembled (with an emphasis on semantic markup), and it includes various APIs for building full-blown web applications.
Not to be overly critical of Apple — anyone pushing for open web standards deserves kudos — but the company seems more deeply concerned with digging Flash’s grave than it does with promoting semantic markup. The page on Apple’s website mentions HTML5 ten times, and nine of those mentions refer explicitly to video playback.
Apple has posted some technical guides at the bottom of the page to help “ensure that your website looks and works great on the iPad.” It also has a form you can fill out to submit your site for its gallery of iPad-ready sites.