CYBERSPACE—Wired’s Brian X. Chen posted an article to the site Thursday that assessed the necessity of buying the new Skyfire app, an iPhone web browser that plays Flash videos, and which apparently sold out Wednesday following an onslaught of downloads.
Chen, appropriately curious, acquired the app, too, and started surfing the Net in search of sites featuring Flash videos.
“The app’s primary function is to take websites that use embedded Flash video and automatically transcode that video into HTML5 so that it’s viewable on the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. To test it, I had to find a popular website loaded with Flash video,” he wrote. “The search was difficult.”
Many video heavy sites have already converted to HTML5, he discovered, including The Onion, DailyMotion, ESPN, CollegeHumor and CNET.
He also found that not all Flash videos work with Skyfire.
I loaded the TED Talks website, which is a gallery of Flash videos, and Skyfire didn’t transcode the videos. I tried playing a Flash video on CNN.com, and Skyfire didn’t transcode it, either. But it doesn’t matter so much in those cases, because there are already iOS apps for both TED Talks and CNN, which are capable of playing their videos,” he wrote. Flash videos on Hulu also would not play, but only because of licensing restrictions that prevent mobile devices from streaming Hulu videos for free.
In the end, he found, there was less use for Skyfire that he had originally imagined. Why, then, had so many people downloaded the app immediately upon its launch?
“The underlying reason,” he concluded, “is the one big chunk of the web that’s still not available on the iPhone or iPad: free porn. Indeed, many porn-streaming websites still rely on Flash. That makes me believe that the tipping point for Flash to become irrelevant is when the most-popular porn sites shift to HTML5. My ‘research’ tells me that day isn’t far away. In the meantime, Skyfire may have only limited utility for most of the web, but it makes a fine porn browser.”
More information about the Skyfire app can be found on the company website.