Just the Internet

One more note regarding the Flash-for-iPhone issue. Several readers have objected to the omission of Flash from the iPhone on the grounds that Apple claims that the iPhone offers the “real Internet”, and since Flash is part of the “real Internet”, that means the iPhone needs to support Flash.1

I’ve made my case regarding the reasons why Apple might not want to support Flash on Mobile OS X. But, for all I know, Flash support is queued up and ready to roll in the iPhone update I presume Apple is getting ready to release alongside the SDK next week. But if I’m right and Flash support is not coming soon, I don’t see any contradiction with Apple’s claims.

Apple’s “Watered Down” iPhone commercial seems to be the source of these objections. Here’s what the narrator says, while we watch someone navigate the front page of nytimes.com in MobileSafari:

This is not a “watered down” version of the Internet, or the “mobile” version of the Internet, or the “kinda sorta looks like the Internet” Internet. It’s just… the Internet.

“It’s just the Internet” is not a specific technical claim. For god’s sake they’re using “Internet” to mean “web”. This is advertising, and the gist of the claim is true. If you think “just the Internet” implies that MobileSafari should support everything Safari for Mac and Windows supports, that means more than just Flash is missing, including Java and Windows Media.

It’s also possible that this sort of phrasing is an attempt to frame the issue in Apple’s favor, by establishing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as the only technologies that constitute the “regular” web — and imply that Flash, no matter how common, is non-standard.

  1. I haven’t found a single instance where Apple has used the literal phrase “the real Internet” to describe what it is that MobileSafari supports, but that’s the phrase readers who’ve emailed me about this tend to use. Update: Steve Jobs has used the phrase “the real Internet” on a few occasions. ↩︎