Why I Don't Use Flash

Apr3009Apr 30, 09

I've always been against the unnecessary use of Flash. It seems like many developers are in the habit of falling back to this huge browser plug-in for things like text and images. It is bad enough that we are forced to use images for typography on the web, why would anyone want to make it even more inefficient by involving a piece of proprietary software?

Do you remember when people used to embed Java applets on web pages? Flash has the ability to reduce great content to a similarly annoying state. The keyboard focus and navigation is both terrible and inconsistent, and there is no option to view the source of a Flash animation. Source-code visibility is one of the most amazing benefits of the open web, and Flash simply does not uphold this tradition. I don't usually denounce websites for their use of Flash, but I came across a very disappointing site today while checking out the new BlackBerry AppWorld.

BlackBerry's Featured Apps section has a list of 19 applications with checkboxes used for selecting which applications you wish to install. The page looks alright, and although it loads a little slowly the initial impression is fine in most browsers. Once you try to scroll, though, it is clear that Flash has been used extensively - for the 19 checkbox labels, for the page title, all very trivial. It looks like the designer couldn't agree on a standard web font, and so much the text is generated using Flash. The sad part is that the font used is terribly similar to the default font on most Operating Systems (Mac, Ubuntu, Vista, and others). Worse yet, all of the already unnecessary unsearchable Flash content also looks far too anti-aliased and out of place to most people.

Scrolling in most browsers is usually quite fast, assuming the page being scrolled has been coded with a mind for speed (no moving transparent content over images). This is not the case on the BlackBerry Featured Apps page, which scrolls extremely slowly in Firefox, Camino and Explorer. In Safari and Opera, the page scrolls fine but all of the Flash content is dark green instead of white. The result is a page that lacks compatibility with some browsers, and is extremely slow in others - all because of a font choice for some very insignificant text.

BlackBerry example aside, Flash is currently an acceptable way to embed rich media into a document. This will change with the release of Firefox 3.5, which includes support for the long-awaited HTML 5 video & audio specifications. I hope content providers will choose to adopt this for playing video and audio in the proper browsers.

About Jason Miller:

I am a JavaScript developer from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. When I am not typing green code onto a black screen, you might find me at the nearest coffee pub checking out the brew. I run a internet firm called developIT and maintain blogs and web apps when I can.
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