I remember when I first saw Flash websites two decades ago. My mind was blown away seeing all these animations and effects in webpages. I thought back then that this was the future of the web. And it was… for a while…
At the beginning of the Web era, Flash was the only good option for animation and website “enhancement”. Your choice was to either have a “boring HTML website” or use Flash, so it rapidly became wildly popular. But today Flash is going out, and here is why.
Browsing the Internet is no longer limited to desktops and laptops. Today people access the web from mobile phones (iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry among others), gaming consoles (X-BOX 360, PS3, Wii), and SmartTVs. With most of these devices, Flash support is either nonexistent, or severely lacking.
Flash is not fully readable by search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. It’s true that you can embed some meta information, but nothing comparable to real HTML content. Search engines cannot interpret the meaning, structure and relevance of a website built entirely using Flash.
And when it comes to video, Flash is not the only option. Now HTML 5 supports embedding videos in a web browser without Flash and the new format has already been adopted by many websites, most notably YouTube, providing much better quality video than Flash at a smaller file size so you can watch high definition videos with minimal CPU / battery power.
After a Flash website is released, it’s also a hassle to maintain. Changing a Flash animation can be complicated work. You will need to spend a considerable amount of money for a small change or worst, make no changes at all and keep an outdated site for years.
Flash is known to have issues in the areas of stability, performance and security. It has been the cause of many browser crashes. It requires a lot of CPU power, and can bring low-powered computers/devices to their knees. Mobile phones, netbooks and gaming consoles completely freeze simply because a user tried to watch a Flash video. Whatever is used to build websites, it must be capable to be displayed on all kinds of devices, whether desktop or mobile.
Flash websites introduce several usability problems:
The most definitive article I’ve read about the future of Adobe Flash came from Steve Jobs (founder of Apple). His article “Thoughts on Flash” sums up the reasons why the iPhone, iPod and iPad do not (and never will) support Adobe Flash. So think twice before having a website that leaves 90 million iPhones out in the cold.
Steve Jobs is not the first to reject Flash. Industry experts have expressed concerns for many years. Usability expert Jacob Nielson published an article in October 2000 titled “Flash: 99% Bad” stating that “99% of the time, the presence of Flash on a website constitutes a usability disease… it encourages design abuse, it breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction principles, and it distracts attention from the site’s core value.”
Most of the issues I’ve mentioned are also described in detail at Wikipedia’s Adobe Flash article. Someone posted a statement on Wikipedia saying, “On Mar 8, 2011, it was announced that Flash support would be coming to the iPad, iPad 2 and iPhone.” This is completely untrue. The citation references an article about Wallaby, a tool for converting basic Flash animations to HTML 5. In other words, this is actually an example of HTML 5 being used to replace Flash.
Flash was a cool technology, but it wasn’t the future of web development. It’s time for web developers to move on and for clients to consider updating their current websites to user/Google/mobile friendly technologies.
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