Florian Cramer on Fri, 19 Apr 2002 20:40:53 +0200 (CEST)

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Am Fri, 19.Apr.2002 um 01:17:41 -0400x schrieb Christopher Fahey [askrom]:

> Zak wrote:
> > > The seemingly endless backlash against Flash can, in many ways, be
> > > traced to a simple dislike for the "Flash aesthetic" or the
> > > predominance of that aesthetic. 
> > 
> > Rubbish. The backlash against Flash is more to do with its inherent
> > un-openness and baulky, unwieldy, proprietary specification. 
> "Rubbish"?!? Simmer down there, pilgrim, this ain't a debate over the
> Middle East, it's just a file format. Anyway, please note that:

I wouldn't say a file format is "just a file format" if it is the basis
of an information infrastructure! In fact, the whole control and
politics over digital information is in the file formats and network
protocols even more than in the user programs. Those who control the
file formats and protocols, control the net, just as Microsoft controls
personal computing through its proprietary ownership of the Microsoft
Office file formats (sadly enough the de-facto standard in publishing
and document exchange).

> > Along with
> > a host of really unbelievable shortcomings like bookmarking/linking
> > issues, searching issues etc. 
> Shortcomings that are quite easy to overcome by good Flash site
> designers. 

There is a difference between a format that in its design is open,
standardized and structure-oriented like HTML, but has been abused by
"designers" into an unstructured incompatible mess, and a non-open,
non-standardized, non-structured-oriented format like Flash that might
be individually tweaked into transparency and usability (if only at
display level).

For example, the <TITLE> tag in HTML permits people to narrow down their
Web searches to names or keywords occuring only in document titles, not
in document bodies. One website designer may mock up something similar
in Flash, but as long as it is not standardized in the format, it is of
no value for the rest of the Internet.

>YShortcomings that, in fact, are almost as prevalent on
> HTML-based sites. 

HTML gives me, at least where it's properly used, a separation between
contents and presentation and thus the freedom to read it in the browser
paradigm I like, be it a graphical browser like Mozilla/IE, be it a
terminal browser like lynx or links (I personally read 99% of the web in
lynx) or in a Net.art browser like the I/O/D web stalker, or even on a
Palm Pilot formatted into a Palm Pilot-like display. 

Flash is the flashy step backwards to dumbing down the Internet into
device-dependent, garbled mess of code-obfuscated information.

On the long run, Flash is doomed because it is a non-open format
controlled by a single company and probably (but I am not sure) mined
with patents. 

Macromedia is free to charge for Flash browser plugins or collect
mp3-/MPEG4-style license fees from content creators any time they want.
If the company goes out of business or discontinues Flash, all work done
in it will be lost, similar to the work done in HyperCard in the 1980s.

While of course it is doubtful whether HTML will still be used and HTML
browsers will still widely exist in the year 2100, anybody will be able
to look up the W2C HTML specification in a library and write a program
that displays ancient 20/21st century web pages. The same is impossible
for Flash.

> > It is in fact a testiment to the
> > shallowness of our society, one more concerned with form than 
> > function,
> One person's "shallowness" is another person's commitment to beauty and
> elegance. It is just as shallow to think that function trumps form: both

It don't think Flash is very beautiful and elegant in its code and
internal design. HTML, as an SGML Document Type Definition, is beautiful
and elegant enough internally so that almost anyone can write it
_directly in code_, on any piece of software that is able to save ASCII
files. - So HTML and other open, structured formats do not only provide
the freedom of choosing software for its display, they also provide the
freedom of choosing software for its creation (and even let it
dynamically generate by programs/scripts - can you create Flash code by

> > Flash has the ability to set the web back 4 years or more, to a time
> > when proprietary systems and non-interoperability where the 
> > order of the day.
> I find this part hilarious. You are the one who is apparently advocating
> that we stick with an outdated, crippled system of displaying and
> processing information over the internet (page-based HTML) and not
> bother to learn how to learn to use powerful new tools to make usable
> and elegant new interactive business interfaces and art works. 

This is exactly the industry brainwash speak used again and again to
lock people into closed architectures and dependency schemes. Create
some flashy toys, make people swallow them and milk them as soon as they
have become dependent.  It's the business model of heroin pushers. The
first shot is always free.

> corporate control. Using SVG is like speaking Esperanto to spite the
> hegemony of the nation-state system - a noble but totally futile
> gesture, and a waste of time for everyone from big businesses to
> individual artists. 

In fact, the web right now has a lingua franca which, like medieval
Latin or contemporary English, is a bit fragmented across the cultures,
but by and large works for what it is supposed to do. And regarding SVG
vs. Flash: _You_ as the artist create the web. Who makes you believe you
have no choice? (And you read/post to Nettime because you care for the
culture and politics of digital networks?)

> This might change, of course, but as of now I don't
> know anyone at all, or any web site at all, that works in SVG. I would
> have tried, but the 1-megabyte plug in download pretty much ruled it out
> for me.

But the multimegabyte download of the Flash plugin + signing of the
proprietary "End User License Agreement" (EULA) hasn't ruled it out for
you? (Unless it came with your proprietary operating system.) So your
choice would be to, for example, dial into the Internet with AOL or MSN
or ditch .mp3 in favor of .wma with "Digital Rights Management" just
because the software was pre-installed on your computer?


(Why do digital artists always have to be the least critical consumers
of proprietary technology?)

GnuPG/PGP public key ID 3200C7BA, finger cantsin@mail.zedat.fu-berlin.de

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