Right now, Apple and Adobe are waging a war over something that’s had a dramatic impact on the internet for well over a decade. And that is an online technology called Adobe Flash, which presently has an uncertain future.
This started when the iPhone was released without Flash support. To the ire of a vocal minority who didn’t have access to streaming video sites (until they upgraded their sites to make them iPhone compatible), this was tantamount to preventing the device from accessing all that the internet has to offer. Now that the iPad has been released, the same concerns carry over to this new device which similarly does not support Flash. As an iPod Touch (and soon to be iPad) user isn’t a problem for me at all, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because Flash detracts more than it adds.
4 Reasons Why Flash Needs to Go:
- It’s difficult to use properly, and conversely very easy for everything to go wrong. And that proper use is? Always in service of the content, and never detracting from it. Here’s an example of a horrendous site that abuses Flash. It’s boisterous and unsightly, auto-plays annoying music, and is all-around terrible. There are millions of sites like it.
- It loads slowly, doesn’t scale, and is cumbersome. It might seem like a great idea to add a 2-minute long introduction video to your site to demonstrate to your audience how tech-savvy you are. Don’t do that. 80% of your visitors will close the browser tab before your intro finishes because they don’t care. Seconds count.
- Google can’t crawl any information that you put into Flash and it won’t work on mobile devices. You can have your entire site in Flash but none of that information will be accessible to Google and thus, the larger internet. Mobile devices like Blackberries and iPhones won’t display your website at all.
- It’s an old technology that eats up CPU cycles and battery power, and there are modern technologies like HTML 5 which are superior. In short, aside from Adobe’s interest in selling Flash-producing applications, it has no reason to exist going forward. Apple knows this and is accelerating the process, thankfully.
Blocking Flash in Your Browser
I personally (like many others) have a Flash-blocking extension installed in Firefox. This means that any and all Flash on the internet won’t appear in my browser unless I specifically enable it to. By and large, the only site that I allow to display flash is Youtube. This trend (of Flash-blocking browser plugins) has gained so much popularity that Ars Technica authored a recent article on the topic, begging users to not block their ads because it funds the production of their website. Sorry Ars: as much as I enjoy your content, Flash adds nothing to your site unless you’re an advertiser. Switch to non-Flash adds and people won’t block them. Here’s a great editorial on TechDirt that discusses the issue further.