Decoding Flash on YouTube, no longer the solution


A friend sent me a music video last night on twitter, which when I went to watch on my iPad, both within Tweetbot and in the YouTube app, couldn’t be enjoyed.

Errors varied from "The content holder did not make this available on mobile. Add to your playlist to watch on a PC" in the Tweetbot WebKit browser to "Not available on this platform" in the app. (The fact that, for many, the iPad is their PC probably doesn’t occur to the denizens of Google towers, perhaps?)

Coincidentally, I was listening to John Gruber’s The Talk Show at the time where he and software developer Daniel Jalkut were reminiscing with some disdain, as John can be wont to do, about the time when Flash ruled everything on the web. From Kids games to restaurant menus.

Now I don’t know if the reason why that They Might be Giants video was unplayable on my iPad was because it was encoded in Flash or because of the intransigence of the rights holder, but it reminded me of the days, before the iPad, when the Internet, games and so many other things were riddled with Flash, just because.

  • Just because that’s what YouTube used.
  • Just because the software developer you contracted knew how to use it.
  • Just because all the windows computers had it installed.

I see far too many examples, when it comes to technology, where the technology solution is allowed to define the problem, despite some of the best customer experiences often being where the technology underpinning the products are opaque to the user.

I know that Flash was a great solution for many problems, and in many ways still is. I also know that I daily, thank the iPad for helping kill its use in places where it didn’t belong and encourage providers to consider alternative, better solutions to problems customers have.

Update: I should probably be clear that, while I’m using the link and video I refer to in this post as an example of a bad user experience, I don’t know if that specific issue is caused by Flash or not. Here’s a possible workaround for the mobile site, though that won’t work on the YouTube app on the iPad.

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