Life without Flash
I decided a couple months ago to just remove Flash from my computer outright. I’m not really outwardly in a pissing match against Adobe or their technology offerings (though I feel like they no longer represent the pinnacle of great creative software like they did before they bought Macromedia, and incidentally I think Macromedia’s products are worse since the acquisition too), but the primary reason I decided to remove it was because I was concerned about battery performance on my laptop (and performance in general).
Make no mistake. Flash is a remarkable vector graphics program, and its bandwidth efficiency made it a great choice for adding interactive vectorized content in an age where IE6 was considered state of the art. But the use cases of Flash have shifted from what it was best at to being a platform for distributing video (not animations, but full blown video), and that frankly is something Flash sucks at. But with its impressive install rate on people’s machines, it made itself the de facto standard for online video. Better alternatives exist today, and they are now common enough and they work better enough that the benefits of using Flash are disappearing.
So I got rid of it. I was a bit concerned that the Internet would start feeling crippled, but with over half of online video now available in an HTML5 format, that eased my concerns. A couple of months into it, there is almost nothing that I miss about having Flash on my computers. If a video or web site is Flash only, I simply don’t use it. I’ve yet to miss anything of any significant importance.
The biggest annoyance I experience with the lack of flash is not the existence of those “missing plug-in” boxes, but the fact that I can’t scroll past them with my mouse. They absorb all of my scroll input. I could write a simple Safari extension to remove those Flash embed links but i’m honestly too lazy. Maybe I’ll get around to it.
I’m not going to downplay the fact that some stuff is missing from the web; I encounter it every day. But it’s usually stupid cutesy stuff, like FarmVille. There don’t exist many legit tools that are reliant on Flash, and even if there were, i’d rather cast my vote for the developer to make an HTML app instead by visiting that site without Flash.
I’m now at the point where going Flash-less is something I would recommend to friends. Again, yes, you will miss stuff. But I’m pretty certain you won’t miss anything that great. Mre importantly, removing Flash from your computer helps make an increasingly compelling case for web developers to accommodate these users who don’t have Flash.
Adobe may have gotten all self-righteous when it told Apple that they weren’t being “open” in their decision to not support Flash. Make no mistake. Flash is absolutely not open. It’s completely proprietary, and you are at Adobe’s mercy when it comes to them deciding whether they will support the device you choose. Web standards, on the other hand, are completely open, and if someone came out with a new device tomorrow, they could include a web browser with it and it could support pretty much all web content from day one. Flash is a technology that is nearing the end of its life cycle.
And Adobe knows that Flash is on the way out as well. They just released a new app called Edge which is designed to let people create rich web content that doesn’t require a third party plugin because it turns it all into native HTML.