Why we hate flash

You don't hate flash, you hate ads!

We don't hate flash. It's an amazing tool and I use the present tense here because you can still find it in the wilderness. It's only recently that YouTube, which mainly played videos through flash, switched the default player to be in HTML5. That is when media outlets started the whole campaign of saying flash is dead(er). When you open YouTube on a browser that doesn't support html5 then you still use flash.

What is HTML5 anyway? It's not a new technology that was never before seen. For the sake of this article let's say that HTML5 allows the browser play videos without the need of external plug-ins. The browser has a new API so to speak that supports video.

But, there are a lot more things that were only possible with flash that can now be done entirely in the browser. One Good example is OpenGl, or WebGl as we call it on the browser. Before, in order to make a 3d game, you would need to make it a flash application, (or God forbid a Java Applet) because the browser did not have any gateway to access a graphics API. Flash did.

We pride ourselves by running Unreal Engine "natively" on the browser today, but I have played flash ports of Doom on the browser in the days of document.all. And it was as smooth as the computer allowed. Don't get me wrong, games that run natively today are just as good.

Flash had some problems, but they were being worked on. To name a few:

1. It required you install it as a 3rd party extension.

Flash, whether it was from the Adobe player or any other provider was a third party application. Your browser could come bundled with it but it was still a separate entity. It ran in its own process when you loaded a video for example. This led a lot of complaints about the excessive memory it used.

2. Security is hard

Flash is not limited to playing videos and 3d graphics. There are full APIs that allowed it to communicate with the Operating System, not just the browser. This made it exceptionally difficult to sandbox applications. Hackers always found holes in it to take control over the user's computers. But still, today we can say that flash is secure.

3. It crashed a lot.

Sometimes you would access a page and it would just freeze. I don't entirely blame flash for that but I will elaborate more on that later. Nevertheless, when you are doing something important and your browser crashes for no apparent reasons it is frustrating.

But to tell you the truth, I don't think this is why people hated flash. I hated it because of advertisements. Today, I use "click to enable flash". Any pages I visit cannot run flash until I click to enable it. I don't mind ads, we have been conditioned to ignore anything weird on the page, so I don't even see them.

But when it is a flash animation that plays music when the page loads and I have no control over it, I get frustrated. Back in the days, I wrote a small bookmarklet script to remove all flash from any page I visit. Of course false positives were exceptionally annoying.

But the point is, I'd do the extra work of removing it from the page. This brings the attention back from why is flash annoying to who uses flash to make annoying stuff.

Advertisers ruined the flash experience for all of us, and I'm afraid that killing flash is not going to help. In reality, developers could fix the memory issues in their flash apps. If flash makes all your laptop fans turn on immediately, let me assure you that animating a div with JavaScript will do just the same. You have the option to optimize your application however.

The problem is, when you have a website that is trying to monetize as much as possible, they add five flash ads on their page that runs simultaneously and end up freezing your browser. They have video, audio, a fancy three dimensional tag cloud, and all sorts of things going on. And when you disable flash, suddenly everything is beautiful. Of course you will hate flash.

The worst is when you access this kind of page on your mobile device. On my old Android 2.3, the whole phone simply shutdown and reboots. So naturally, we all want flash to die. If it's not dead yet, then we will spread rumors about it and get it killed.

Cars where used in a bank heist, should we ban all cars? That is the case of flash.

But like I said before, killing it will not help us get peace. Unless we want to kill all the new HTML5 APIs too. With flash, you could disable it and you don't get annoying videos that automatically play. With HTML5, well it's not that easy. You will have to do a little more work.

HTML5 allows to play video, audio, 3d graphics, and much more. You get the same tools that flash provides and naturally you can create the same annoying things with it. I won't be surprised a few years from now when browsers add an Annoyance API ® ™ to detect those awful things directly in the browser without using a third party tool.

HTML5 is still new and we are still trying to figure out all we can do with it. Some advertisers have already started creating the content we used to hate with it. But I hope it doesn't become a trend.

When I encounter those, how I wish they were in flash. Because at least there I could disable them. Let's take time to think about it. Do we want to live in a world where flash doesn't exist? A world where advertisers have no barriers to how much they can shove ads in our faces? No!

I'm all for HTML5 because it allows me to develop full applications for the web without needing a proprietary tool. Unifying it all in JavaScript instead of ActionScript makes it faster to develop. But the downside of having less ability to block those who try to ruin the web experience is far too great.

I want my flash back.


There are no comments added yet.

Let's hear your thoughts

For my eyes only