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Why Flash sucks

April 5, 2010

You might have noticed that a new Apple product launched recently. I’m not going to name it here, because the presstitutes have already flooded the Web with coverage of it to the point where people are suffering from the-Apple-device-that-must-not-be-named fatigue.

But an interesting controversy has arisen as a result of this release: Adobe’s Flash doesn’t run on it. People have been weighing in on article comments and forums, mocking the product and pointing out that “without Flash you don’t have the real Internet experience.”

Is that really true? Do you need Adobe Flash to actually enjoy being online? For me, the answer is clearly no. And I think a good argument can be made that the Internet is better off without it.

What’s Wrong with Flash
Let’s start by listing a few of the obvious problems with Flash. (I’m sure I’ve missed some others—feel free to list your gripes in the comments.)

1. As a certain CEO noted recently, “…it’s “…a CPU hog.” (Among other things.) The CEO in question, responsible for selling the product-that-must-not-be-named, apparently made this comment in a meeting with people from a major media outlet as he encouraged them to develop their site using HTML5 for video instead of Flash. According to Gawker:

“Jobs was brazen in his dismissal of Flash, people familiar with the meeting tell us. He repeated what he said at an Apple Town Hall recently, that Flash crashes Macs and is buggy.

But he also called Flash a “CPU hog,” a source of “security holes” and, in perhaps the most grievous insult a famous innovator can utter, a dying technology. Jobs said of Flash, “We don’t spend a lot of energy on old technology.” He then compared Flash to other obsolete systems Apple got people to ditch….”

(Although not everyone agrees that HTML5 is always better.)

2. Animated, pushy ads. Does an excess of animation and noise really make ads more effective? I doubt it. I suspect that they simply annoy people to the point where they tune them out or use some kind of Flash-blocker in their browsers. In the interests of full disclosure, I have advertising on some of my sites (including JimLynch.com) and, yes, some of the ads are Flash-based. I suppose I’m a bit of a hypocrite for complaining about it, but I’d still like to see the ad networks move away from using Flash.

3. Non-standard web page interfaces. It can be incredibly frustrating to deal with Flash-based Web page interfaces. Ugh. It’s as if some designers want to make it as difficult as possible to navigate their sites. I generally try to avoid even going to sites that are Flash-based, just to keep my blood pressure down. Take a look at the Assassin’s Creed 2 Web site for a good example. Why can’t companies just use a reasonably standard interface that doesn’t require Flash just for basic navigation? This is exactly what’s wrong with using Flash so heavily in a site. In many cases, CSS can do the job just as well.

4. The bugginess. At least on Mac OS X and Linux, Flash causes all sorts of problems, time and time again. On those OSes, the value of the content on Flash-based Web pages doesn’t come anywhere close to compensating for the bugs.

5. Flash Freaks. Believe it or not, there are people out there who seem to have a genuine fetish for this junky software. You see them all over the Web whenever somebody discusses the-product-that-must-not-be-named: They jump in immediately and heap scorn onto anyone who doesn’t like Flash, and they’ll shout how they don’t care that the product-that-must-not-be-named doesn’t run it. I used to think that the Linux Holy Warriors and Mac Cultists were as bad as it could get, but at least those folks were defending viable pieces of technology. The Flash Freaks are far worse and refuse to admit any of the disadvantages of the software they love.

The Web Without Adobe Flash
I decided recently to see what the modern Web was like without Flash, so I uninstalled it from one of my systems.

The first thing I noticed was that the Flash ads were gone. I still saw ads on Web pages I visited, but without most of the irritating animation. (Some pages used animated GIFs, but there were a lot fewer of those.) This meant that I also missed out on some parts of Web sites that used Flash—things like interactive slide shows and games weren’t viewable in my browser.

And you know what? I enjoyed not having Flash all over the place while browsing. The Web became a less obnoxious place, somewhat easier to navigate and find the information and entertainment I wanted.

True, there were certain other things that I couldn’t experience anymore. Facebook games, for example. (Though I’m not sure I miss harvesting my crops on Farmville for the 500,000th time!). But did I really need to be wasting my time with all of that in the first place? Eventually those games get very tiresome and not being able to play them was almost a relief.

It was similar to when I got rid of cable TV. The very idea is heresy to many people, but once I did it it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. With a major distraction removed, I suddenly found my life quieter and more productive. I didn’t miss any of the junk content that had vanished.

Final Thoughts
I’m happy to see that sites like YouTube are already moving ahead vigorously with non-Flash versions. You can even try out YouTube using HTML5, though you’ll need to use one of the supported browsers (Safari, Chrome, or IE with Google Chrome Frame installed).

The HTML5 videos I’ve seen look and sound pretty darn good. You’re really not missing out on much. Not, not all videos are currently available in HTML5, but if you sign up for the beta and you don’t have Flash on your system, you can still browse around YouTube to see videos using HTML5 instead of Flash.

I dare you to try this yourself. Go ahead. If you haven’t already, get rid of Flash and see if you miss it as little as I did. My guess is that you won’t and that you’ll find yourself preferring a smoother, faster, gentler, and—dare I say it?—less “flashy” Web.

What’s your take on flash? Love it or hate it? Tell me in the comments.

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13 Responses to Why Flash sucks

  1. Banhammer thrower on August 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    the 2012  London NBC-BBC video experience has proved once and for all time that Flash sucks Olympic-size sweaty donkey balls and needs to be quarantined for anti-doping violations, after which it should be
    1. DISqualified
    2. BANNED worldwide from all international events

  2. Rob on November 12, 2011 at 10:56 am

    And finally, Adobe has admitted that Flash is a dead end technology.
    Did they really wait to announce it until Steve Jobs was dead, just out of spite?
    It doesn’t matter. Flash sucked long before it became a “world vs Jobs” issue.

    See Item 7

  3. Jim on August 3, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    You bet, Tony. What better place to prove that then on my own blog, right?


    Plus…you know…I have to pay the bills somehow. Heh, heh.

    :whistle: :angel:

  4. Tony on August 3, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Is it to prove a point or just ironic that the Flash ads begin playing immediately in right sidebar when visiting your post…? ;-)

    But anyway, I’m in complete agreement with your post.

  5. Demx on July 13, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    “Animated, pushy ads”

    Why wouldn’t someone be able to make anime, pushy ads in html5? The only reason they are in flash now is that html5 isn’t here and usable yet. Once it is you will have those same ads running with video tags and javascript.

    HTML5 can be just as cpu intensive and buggy as flash and even worse, it is implemented differently by different browsers so when coding a developer needs to make sure it works on all browser’s implementation of html5.

    It would be great to write a website and give it interactive content without the need to use a bloated plugin, but there are way too many ifs to say that flash is done against html5. The browsers can’t even agree on a video codec, how is this ever going to take off?

  6. DK on January 2, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Oh please.. The only real reason that steve jobs doesn’t like flash is because if flash was allowed he wouldn’t have complete control over the apps that run on his new monopolistic itoys. It’s all about greed not giving you a less buggy system. If you want to be a serf in jobs new world order – go for it.. but at least be honest with yourself.

  7. Richard on September 7, 2010 at 6:00 am

    I’m going to ditch the flash plug right now :ninja:

  8. Randy on June 14, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    The single point that matters the most to me is that Flash is a proprietary format. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was used just by a few people who had purchased software from the company, but it is being used as a web standard. That standard isn’t open and is completely controlled by Adobe. This is extremely detrimental to anyone who uses an unsupported web browser.

    Recently Adobe stopped releasing the 64-bit Linux version of the Flash player. The plugin was a beta, but it made it at least somewhat easier to view flash content on 64-bit Linux. With the discontinuation of this beta, many Linux users can no longer utilize Flash content on the web (at least without jumping through many additional hoops). Some of you may say “just use Windows.” That is not the solution. Open standards like HTML5 and CSS3 should be utilized to replace Flash content on the web.

  9. Flash Dev on May 16, 2010 at 10:25 am

    I’ve been using Flash since V3. It is a very powerful tool. It allows even total morons with limited information and inflexible speaking points to get their message across. It’s a lot like your website.

    If only it was more ‘open standards’ like the Apple app store.
    ‘Heh, heh.’

    The more I think about it the more frustrated it makes me that Flash limits my ability to build high quality apps such as the iFart Mobile™ you so succinctly reviewed.

  10. em vee on April 26, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    You are so right, and it’s good to see more people finally “getting it”.

    Flash is evil in so many ways, but primarily because it breaks the model of oepn standards on which the Internet is built.

    Plus it’s potential for misuse and as a vulnerabilty vector.

    I just refuse to install it. For websites that “require” Flash, I just hit the back button.

  11. Jim on April 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I’ve been using my iPad since release day and I’m not missing flash at all. YouTube functions pretty well without it and I just don’t notice the lack of it when on other sites. I think flash’s days are numbered at this point, unless Adobe is able to somehow improve it or otherwise fix its problems.

    I know that I would not want to burn down my iPad’s battery by loading flash-heavy pages over and over again.

    We’ll see how it goes though. Apple is certainly making a big splash with its position about flash. Heh, heh.


  12. john on April 7, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    I don’t play games, I don’t watch videos, and I detest ads. But one area where flash rules is education. Flash is heavily used for interactive training. Imagine a training module on how canal locks works. Instead of just text you have a flash module where the user reads about how a canal lock works while moving a boat thru the locks, raising/lowering the water level, etc.

    Or imagine a printer technician who has to learn how to repair the latest printer, but can’t get her hands on one. A flash printer simulation would walk the tech thru different tasks needed to rip the printer apart. She could use a virtual screwdriver to remove screws, open panels, etc. We’ve actually done this in flash where the entire printer was built in 3D in flash so the technician could strip it down to the bare chassis.

    Someday it may be possible to build interactive training in HTML 5 that is as engaging as in Flash, but as I’ve been following HTML 5 I think that day is so far in the future that those of us building interactive training will be forced to stick with flash.

  13. kwong on April 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Jim, I totally agree with your article. In fact, I have been saying this for years (see Where does Flash Belong). I think it would only be a matter of time before the majority of people realize this.

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