What if Apple ruled the world?

I don’t know how many of you out there have been fol­low­ing the skir­mishes between Apple and Adobe, but it’s a bat­tle that could have some big impli­ca­tions for the future of the Web at large.

Apple doesn’t allow Adobe Flash to run on its hugely pop­u­lar mobile devices, the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Steve Jobs recently shared his thoughts on  Flash, say­ing that Adobe runs a pro­pri­etary sys­tem locks users into the Flash lan­guage and into Adobe’s ser­vice. Jobs makes a few other claims about Flash, but that’s the big one.

Jobs writes:

Apple has many pro­pri­etary prod­ucts too. Though the oper­at­ing sys­tem for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is pro­pri­etary, we strongly believe that all stan­dards per­tain­ing to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open stan­dards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high per­for­mance, low power imple­men­ta­tions of these open stan­dards. HTML5, the new web stan­dard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many oth­ers, lets web devel­op­ers cre­ate advanced graph­ics, typog­ra­phy, ani­ma­tions and tran­si­tions with­out rely­ing on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is com­pletely open and con­trolled by a stan­dards com­mit­tee, of which Apple is a member.

Newsvine founder and CEO Mike Davidson writes that Apple’s sys­tem can be just as closed and pro­pri­etary as Adobe’s:

In order to get my stuff onto an iPad or iPhone, how­ever, I must receive explicit approval by a human being work­ing for Apple after this human being has man­u­ally reviewed my work, derived my inten­tions for the prod­uct, and made a value judge­ment on what my cre­ation brings to the device. As long as that process exists, there shall be no argu­ments that the iPhone or iPad are more open than just about any­thing we’ve ever seen before… includ­ing Flash. To claim that because Apple is push­ing open stan­dards like HTML5 (really for their own ben­e­fit) means they are some­how more open than Adobe is folly.

The rea­son for Apple to keep itself closed is inter­est­ing too, Davidson says. Companies like Microsoft and Adobe sought to con­trol their mar­kets, to win all the cus­tomers and then have the power to set their own terms.

Apple, on the other hands, keeps itself closed just to dif­fer­en­ti­ate itself from its com­peti­tors, which Apple hopes con­sumers will see as infe­rior to Apple itself. Apple main­tains its excep­tion­al­ity by being closed, and “Apple will stay closed as long as being closed is a net pos­i­tive to their busi­ness.,” Davidson writes.

Interesting stuff. Davidson’s post and Jobs’ let­ter are def­i­nitely worth full reads. Also of note is this, from Davidson:

Flash has taken a slightly dif­fer­ent path towards pub­lic dis­taste and I actu­ally don’t blame Adobe for most of it. When Flash first came out, only the most tal­ented design vision­ar­ies used it. When a new Flash site came out in 1999, each one was like a new DaVinci… beau­ti­ful works of art that moved the web from a tame, ugly typo­graph­i­cally poor medium to a cen­ter stage for creativity.

Then the adver­tis­ers got ahold of it.

When most peo­ple speak ill of Flash, they are actu­ally speak­ing ill of ads. Watching Flash video on YouTube doesn’t crash your browser; vis­it­ing a news site with five annoy­ing Flash ads all try­ing to syn­chro­nize with each other does.

It’s almost enough to make me yearn for the Web of 1996 again. Almost.