Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Relevance of Flash

When Apple’s iPad was announced, a lot of people were hoping that it would Adobe’s Flash. When it didn’t, those folks were so loud that the internet reverberated with how pissed they were with Apple. While the debate on the usefulness and success of the iPad is still up in the air -- we cannot say until the device actually ships and the actual sales numbers from Apple get published -- the relevance of Flash as an important component of the web is now being questioned.

Blogger Robert Scoble, in his blog, Scobleizer, posted “Can Flash be saved?” , paving the way for a long discussion that gives us insight about Flash.

Now add to the fact that Daring Fireball’s John Gruber started posting his site’s statistics reflecting the number of visitors using non-Flash enabled browsers - 32.38% , as of the last week of January 2010. Include popular website,, posting a steadying decline in the number of Flash-enabled browsers, from 2.32% in 2006 to 6.07% in 2009, and’s Andy Baio tweeted that 16% of its visitors don’t have Flash installed, up from 4% a year ago, you’d get an idea that Flash is indeed a dying platform. A friend of mine, Apple genius, Martin Gonzalvez, tweeted that on his Mac, running Flash video at 75% screen resolution eats up 92% of his Mac’s CPU cycles, as compared against running Windows 7 with full anti-virus scanning on VirtualBox (a virtualization software) only consumes 66%! He continues that running an HTML5 480p video, at the same resolution as the Flash video, on Safari ate only 15% of his Mac’s CPU cycle. This is not scientific, but then again, you can try this out yourself. Apple knows that Flash is such a resource hog, and worse, it is so unstable that Apple decided to re-engineer Safari to run plug-ins in a sandbox. That way, when a plug-in crashes (particularly Flash), it will not crash Safari. This is also the reason why iPhone and iPod Touch, and the upcoming iPad, do not support Flash -- in addition to Apple not having full control of it, its disadvantages outweigh its advantages. Personally, I think Apple did a good job here.

Google’s YouTube is now experimenting on HTML5 videos. Video site, Vimeo, is doing the same thing. Now, if these aren’t indications of where Flash technology is going, then I do not know what other signs one needs. I have used an iPhone since it debuted in the US, and not once did I miss Flash. I have Flashblock on my Firefox browser, and ClickToFlash on Safari. Heck, I don’t even have Flash on my NexusOne (although Adobe said that it will soon be released).

Since these are my tools to access the web, then I definitely have no use for Flash. :P Frankly, if not for games, such as Farmville and Mafia Wars, I am sure that most of my friends will abandon Flash, too. Web-developers should learn that providing a Flash-only site alienates a growing percentage of viewers. They should learn to provide an alternative non-Flash version, if they want to continue getting those eyes on their sites. With Apple’s iPad getting a lot of media coverage, I am sure that major sites are now reconsidering their offerings. Ironically, one of Adobe’s Flash platform evangelists posted a blog post showing different websites (including a porn site) that support Flash, as a JPEG image, instead of their “ubiquitous” Flash. Mr. Merlin Mann caught it and it has been reblogged on my Tumblr site, . Like Mr. Mann, I’m used to seeing the blue block on my browsers!

Wake up and smell the coffee - your time is up, Flash! Developers are now moving AWAY from the platform. With browsers, armed with plug-ins, and devices not supporting your technology, you have no way else to go. Frankly, Flash, like Windows Media, is going the way of RealMedia -- to the grave!