Flash is not the web

Many, many, many people have written about Apple excluding Flash from iOS and Adobe’s spin that Flash is ‘part of the web’ iOS users are being deprived of. The following note from my friend Kevin and a spate of Flash-induced browser crashes has me me itching to chime in:

I like to listen to internet radio streams when I work; stuff from grooveradio.com
has long been a favorite productivity boost for me, like caffeine for the ears.
More recently, thanks to Eric Konieczko, I’ve come to appreciate the more varietal
offerings from ibizasonica.com, but its flash-plugin player excessively and
consistently loads down my CPU: 50-70%! Not so productive, right? The choice of
browser is not a factor; Flash is a pig!

In contrast, I can use VLC on the source stream (http://stream2.wft.es:1025/) and
run at a cool 6% CPU, which could be even lower if videolan’s VLC package for Mac
included the cvlc binary (dispenses with the GUI). If you have any experience
compiling VLC and could share any helpful tips, please do; I’d appreciate it very

If you have any ideas for Kevin, I’d be interested too and would welcome comments.

But it gets to the core point. Flash has enormous unique value. It’s very good for this kind of thing. (As an aside QuickTime used to be too but that’s a story for another day) and for this kind of thing.

What it’s not good for is how Adobe’s marketing has encouraged it to be used:

  • As a way for a good visual designer to do sexy site navigation without learning to write code. If you want sexy and your coding talents aren’t able to execute your vision in HTML/CSS/Javascript, hire somebody who can. I know lots of talented people. Need help? Let me know.
  • As a way to inflict, and note that I said inflict and not offer, an introductory splash page for your web site. Splash pages are for people who can’t organize their thoughts well enough to design and execute an inviting and easy to understand home page. Splash pages are a way to try (and fail) to force your users to pause and absorb your message as you hold them hostage before you give them what they came for. If you give them what they came for, you can make money off them.  Be nice.  If you find you can’t explain your site or offering well enough without imposing a linear experience as an introduction, that’s fine. It’s very hard. Get help. I can find you great people.
  • As the only way you offer video and audio. There are multiple standards some supported on a particular computing platform (Windows Media and mp4 on  Windows and  MacOS/iOS  respectively). If you want a reliable experience, offer platform native formats.
  • As a way to inflict (see above regards offer vs inflict) your advertising message in front of content.

Flash is not part of the web. Flash is a media type. The web is the interconnectedness of documents, html documents. If you can’t recognize that essential truth and then, from there, add styling, elegant and engaging navigation and, as needed, images, audio and video on top of that to benefit your users, you’re not making websites you’re limiting yourself and and your success.

Adobe, if you can’t sell Flash for the things it’s actually very, very good for, don’t keep trying to dupe people into misusing it in order to sell more. You, Adobe, make wonderful tools in Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects et al, get rich making those wonderful tools and stop trying to hammer home a doomed agenda.

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