Netscape vs. IE was easier than this…

I have owned and used Apple products in one form or another almost continuously since 1986.

Love the products, especially (still) Macs. Starting to hate the company. It seems bent on forcing site proprietors back into a barbed-wire nest of incompatible platforms and user experiences. Cases in point:

  • Steve Jobs' well-publicized dismissal of Flash on the iPad and iPhone. Sure, HTML5 comes with boatloads of promise as an alternative, but the promise isn't reality just yet for anyone who would prefer to develop once for use everywhere.
  • The new Safari 5 includes a “Reader” utility that takes content such as a news article and strips all but the core content (text, headings, related images) off the display. No page headers, no banner ads, no unrelated objects — all to recast the user experience to Apple's specifications instead of the site designer's. Sure, I know people hate banners, mostly, but they still pay the freight for a lot of content sites. How quickly will someone invent a workaround?
  • Apple's protectionist policy regarding mobile advertising, which will exclude some major mobile ad nets such as Google's AdMob, also crimps the revenue-share potential for publishers who rely on those nets to help cover costs of mobile deployments.

Now anyone running a network of content sites has to build them one way for the “open” Web, another for Apple platforms, variants for mobile form factors, and then style and script one-offs or variations for all the incompatibilities that have existed since the dawn of the Web. Meanwhile, the rules of engagement in each of those instances keep changing. John Battelle, in that last linked post, has choice words on that:

I think this is shortsighted and wrong. I also think it's classic Apple. It's a rerun of the Us vs. The World mentality that forced the Mac into a corner back in the late 1980s. This time, Google plays the role of Microsoft, but it really doesn't matter. Apple won't let anyone play in their iWorld who might pose a competitive threat.

This is all we need now – a major platform war, with marketers and developers having to pick sides, cost of development, ad serving, analytics, and marketing services at least tripled (one process for Android, one for iPhone/Pad/Touch, one for Microsoft or Palm/HP or…. ). That's not what the web is about. It's disheartening.

And it will be expensive for site proprietors. Just what we need.

Update (11:15 a.m. EDT, 6/10/2010): Robert Andrews has a great post somewhat related to this: The Anti-Web Movement Is Gathering Pace. Also, Mathew Ingram, over at GigaOm, explores the Safari Reader feature further: Let's Get Serious: Safari Reader Is Not The Death Of Media.