Is Flash Dead?


A few years ago Adobe Flash (used to be Macromedia) was one of the in things to have on your website. Animated banners across the top of the page, fancy menuing systems, and all sorts of other - well Flash - bits and pieces appeared all over the place. Many people went as far as writing their entire website using Flash to give a more interactive experience for website visitors.


Recently Flash is starting to fall out of favour. It's more powerful than ever and still allows some of the most impressive web experiences you'll find, but Apple decided that Flash would not be allowed on its range of iPhones and iPads. If you view a website on an iPad or iPhone the Flash is simply not there.


with flash
normal browser with Flash
 
on an iPhone
on an iPhone


In the above example the entire website has disappeared. The owner has put a lot of work into creating a visually excellent site with very interactive features but its all lost on devices that don't have Flash. More usually your website will use Flash for certain parts of the design. In the example below the page header uses a simple Flash animation to fade the images in and out. Again this area simply appears as blank.


with flash
normal browser with Flash
 
on an iPhone
on an iPhone


Flash is also notoriously difficult to get the search engines to index. Google and the others simply can't read what's inside your Flash website so all of your lovely content is simply ignored.


What Is Flash And Why Does It Not Work On Apple Products?


Flash is a piece of software that runs inside your web browser to allow websites to show complex animations and graphics. It's not a standard part of your browser so it needs to be installed by you before it can work.


Adobe, the company who created Flash, has written versions of it for most browsers and most operating systems. The software comes as a plug-in or extension for your browser that you can install any time you want. In Windows, LINUX and even Mac OS this isn't a problem. You can install whatever software you want. In iOS, the operating system for iPhones and iPads, you can only install software that has been approved by Apple. Apple have very clearly stated that they are not allowing Flash to be installed in iOS.


Apple claim that there are technical and security reasons for this but the general opinion is that this is a financial reason to ensure Apple keeps its share of all software sold for iPhones and iPads. (Apple charges a 30% commission on all software sold for iPhones and iPads. This amounts to an awfully large amount of cash).


What to Use Instead


If you're building a website from scratch or updating your curent one you need to have good think about Flash. People are moving to the mobile web in droves. More than 90% of people have phones. More than 50% of these are now smartphones and the largest single share of these being iPhones. With tablets and iPads as well you've got a big market. On top of this the younger generation especially are speding more internet time on their phones and mobile devices than on their laptops and desktops. If you ignore these trends you're taking a big risk.


There are two main routes you can take.


  • Have your website detect that Flash is not available and display alternative content for these devices.
  • Use one of the newer standards based technologies to replace the Flash.


HTML 5, JavaScript and CSS


When Flash was first introduced there was no alternative if you wanted intricate animations and a highly interactive website. These days however there are very real alternatives using HTML 5, JavaScript and CSS. All of these are standard parts of web browsers so almost every modern browser is able to display them correctly. This includes iPads and iPhones.


There are still some very intricate applications where you may still need to use Flash but for 95% of what you want to do you don't.


Is Flash Dead?


No.


Since Apple announced that it would not support Flash every other phone and tablet manufacturer has made a big deal about how it does support Flash.


However, the iOS system is incredibly popular especially amongst those with higher disposable income. This makes it very hard to ignore.


At the moment we are avoiding using Flash in any of the websites. All of our animation work is being done using JavaScript, etc. As yet we haven't come across anything where we been forced to use Flash and to be honest I don't think we will.


If your website uses Flash and you're concerned that an important part of your customer base can't see your website then please give us a call.
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