4toflashHave you tried using Google and typed in keywords like “problems with flash websites” or “typical flash problems” or anything along that line of thought. Within a second you will see millions of suggested answers about problems and difficulties that common users faced using flash in a website. You continue to scroll the pages and you can see most of the “experts” or “opinion-makers” are all arriving at the same similar conclusion – Flash is bad for websites.

In April 2010, the co-founder and then CEO of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs wrote an article explaining why Apple does not allow Flash on the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad. In his “Thoughts on Flash”, he touched on certain points to strengthen his stand against Flash:

  • Flash is fully controlled and made available by Adobe only, including future enhancements, pricing etc.
  • Flash is a closed system. And although the OS of Apple products are proprietary, Apple adopted open systems like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript which are completely open software and standardised by a committee.
  • Symantec highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009 and Flash was the number one reasons Macs crash and he again reinforced the stand that he will not want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.
  • Flash websites do not support the “rollover” function where your fingers move on the touchscreen, nothing happens. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices and if developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript instead.
  • Even without Flash, anyone can still play videos in the internet, on a mobile web browser.

Adobe immediately responded, and Shantanu Narayen, Adobe's CEO, told the Wall Street Journal: "If Flash [is] the number one reason that Macs crash, which I'm not aware of, it has as much to do with the Apple operating system.“ Several other industry experts also criticised that Steve was defending his core businesses and what he said about Flash was driven by commercial factors and not really the technical aspects.

Till this point of time now in 2013, there is still no distinct line which is better, a website with flash or without. So why do people consider using Flash?

Flash – looking at both sides of the coin

Most web users utilize the web to seek information and to put it in simple words, these factors:

  • Quality of content
  • Speed
  • Ease of Navigation
  • Usability

People who choose Flash for their websites believe obviously its strengths outshine its weaknesses. In presentations like a demo of a new product, marketers will definitely agree that it is an excellent technology to use. Not only can it enhance the user’s experience, Flash actually influences the potential customers’ buying behaviour, using subtle animation and audio.

The gaming industry is also heavily developing interactive games in Flash on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, using it to bring in millions.

PwC forecasts that mobile will be the fastest-growing video games sector over the next five years, with revenues increasing from US$8.8bn in 2012 to US$14.4bn in 2017 by a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 10% as an increasing number of consumers turn to smartphones for entertainment.

Industry players highlight that Flash offers much to the end-user:

  • Greater interactivity –You can incorporate sound into your webpages, import digital video into Flash with better compatibility
  • Greater control – Flash gives the designer the ability to adjust entire display size based on browser size. Your images and text will be clean and unpixelated. This will actually encourage people to surf the Web from their mobile devices.
  • Easier font handling – Flash gives the ability to embed any font as you wish regardless of the system fonts installed.
  • Freedom – Flash allows the designer to place objects anywhere they like without having to worry having to program its position. You just simply place the object where you want and move on.
  • Browser compatibility – With Flash, you do not need to worry about which browser will be able to display your page correctly in and which it will choke on.

On the other hand, using Flash isn‘t always a bed of roses, it has some drawbacks:

  • Download time and bandwidth – Sites designed with Flash take a long time to download and consume vast amounts of bandwidth. True, but accordingly to Akamai’s “State of the Internet Q4 2012”, the measured connection speed globally increases around 20% (on an average) annually. We could soon have a technology that leads to Internet connections 400 times faster than Google Fiber in the near future. With such a breakthrough and it means to us end users is , loading websites with Flash would be a breeze.
  • Search engine constraints – SEOs uses text within a site to help index and rank a site. Typical search engines cannot index content within Flash movies. Users believe that they will have problems achieving high rankings with a Flash site.
  • Hard to update information - Flash movies still require a separate plug-in installation in order to run in most browsers. Besides, many companies do not allow their employees to install applications on their computers. This was true in the past, but nowadays browsers like Google Chrome have Adobe Flash Player directly integrated and enabled by default. Microsoft has also made a surprising move by unblocking Flash in its Internet Explorer 10.
  • Flash doesn’t work well with Mac OSX, and Apple’s mobile devices do not support Flash content - But let me tell you that this will change. Just keep reading Asian eMarketing to stay tuned about what will come next.
  • Flash causes the CPU to work harder - which means more power is used, and the battery is drained more quickly.
  • Multiple security issues when developing Flash content for your website - In this point of time halfway through 2013, there are still emerging security issues relating to Flash. Hackers are constantly working around the clock to exploit any leaks in the software. Adobe also acknowledge this fact and they have a system for reporting and a team on standby to quickly address security issues involving their products and services.
  • Development costs money - Developers have to pay for Flash Pro or Flash Builder in order to create apps to deploy video, and this can become costly for a corporation or content creator.

Let’s face it, Flash is everywhere these days - from streaming video and casual games to interactive websites and complex web applications. It has been the driving power behind a lot of companies and creative forces. Adobe was able to accomplish the amazing feat to almost standardizing the Flash player on computers with internet access.

Thus, we hope Flash isn’t going down the drain in favour of HTML5 that simply doesn’t have the versatility of Flash, especially since huge companies have based their business models on what Flash provides.

What would you say if an improved version of Flash, without the flaws mentioned above, would hit the market? In fact, I know that a perfect solution will come around the corner one of these days!

Send me your thoughts!

By Augustine Hong (augustine@mediabuzz.com.sg)