April 29, 2010: Steve Jobs pens “Thoughts on Flash,” an open letter to explain why, basically, Adobe Flash kind of sucks. The letter marks the beginning of the end for the once-omnipresent plugin that powered multimedia in internet browsers for years.
Following the devastatingly blunt broadside, Adobe Systems CEO Shantanu Narayen hits back at Apple, arguing against Jobs’ complaints. But the Apple CEO has clearly made up his mind: iOS devices will never support Flash. The writing is on the wall.
Steve Jobs has some ‘Thoughts on Flash’
Jobs voiced several serious complaints about Flash. He said it drained batteries, caused computer crashes, and suffered from poor security. He also said the software didn’t work particularly well on mobile because it failed to support touch devices properly. Simply put, Jobs wrote, “Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content.”
Apple published the open letter, signed by Jobs, on its website. (Today, it no longer appears to be part of the site.)
According to Bob Burrough, a former software development manager at Apple, Cupertino explored the possibility of using Flash on iPhone. But Jobs had no faith that Adobe would adequately address the software’s security problems.
Nonetheless, Adobe’s boss fired back at Apple. He disputed allegations that Flash was bad for battery life and said that computer crashes were the fault of Apple’s own software. But the damage was done.
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Apple vs. Adobe: The Flash war
At the time, tech pundits put both Apple and Adobe on blast. They either backed Apple’s complaints or vehemently disagreed with them. In retrospect, it seems like Jobs was absolutely correct to raise concerns about Flash.
The following year, tech writer Walt Mossberg told Adobe’s Narayen that Flash sucks on Android, too. And in July 2017, Adobe confirmed plans to eliminate Flash once and for all in 2020. In actuality, Flash was already pretty much dead, having been eliminated from the majority of websites for years.
Adobe finally pulled the plug on Flash in January 2021. And today, Flash will be an afterthought for many users. However, Jobs’ public callout made massive news in 2010. Ultimately, his scathing letter made the internet a better place for everyone.