Why I Dislike Flash

There’s been some hubbub going around about how Flash won’t be included on the iPad, mainly because Steve Jobs considers it a memory hog and unneeded once there are other ways to play online video.

While he did claim that Flash would drain the battery of an iPad from 10 hours to 1.5 hours, here’s an interesting stat:

Battery life on newer MacBook Pros has been  as shrinking by over an hour with Flash active, although the faster processors and added memory help absorb some of the performance concerns.

Outside of playing video, run of the mill HTML with Javascript libraries is more than enough for most websites. If you have a technology that’s draining systems that much, is it really worth supporting?

Flash is buggy and a memory hog and consequently a poor user experience.

This seems to be the biggest complaint. Microsoft tries to make Flash play well with Windows even though they have their own product, Silverlight. Most online video requires a Flash player, so they have to support it. The bottom line: operating system developers are maintaining changes for a plug in because the developer isn’t doing their job or someone else other than the author is supporting technology needs.

It’s a hard job making it work with all of the browsers and platforms but in all honesty, Adobe decided to pick that battle when they bought Macromedia. I have a MacBook Pro and a Sony loaded with tons of RAM, and I’ve still experienced browser freezes on Mac OS X, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 across Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. For it to not work and crash on so many systems, that’s just sloppy development and an  embarrassment  to Adobe.

I recently tried to do some remote usability testing using DimDim, a free service. They have a Flash-based conferencing product that allows you to do screen sharing. Although not a trivial task from a programming point of view, but Adobe supports it. After 30 minutes, we could not get it to work, so now I’m using GoToMeeting.

Honestly, it was a buggy issue. Every time the browser tried to launch, it crashed. That said, the number one rule of User Experience should be: “If it crashes, the user has a poor experience.” Adobe, with their wonderful graphics applications, should understand it. I have no idea how many quality assurance people are on Flash, but they need more.

Flash confuses users.

During the DimDim installation, there’s a security dialog that is run-of-the-mill for us Internet-types but most users freak out and want to go home. The person I was testing kept canceling at that point. Just recently, I was talking to a video publisher who said that at that point, 50 percent of the users that attempt to share video cancel the action at the security dialog.

I’ve been seeing confusing error messages on several sites, Mashable being one of them, about “security issues” regarding Flash. I selected the “Settings” button on the dialog and was redirected to the Adobe site. I found this dialog confusing, and I consider myself a Web Expert. Can you imagine most of the people on the Web trying to figure this out?

Outside of online video and some Flex apps, Flash isn’t needed.

It is very easy to encode video with Flash, but outside of online video and a few Flex apps like TweetDeck, I personally have no use for Flash. HTML with jQuery achieves most, if not all, of the user interface needs I need to do elegant UX work.

The Virgin America decision to not use Flash on their site is a great example. They have a clean, easy-to-use site and a user base that is highly connected to mobile and, more importantly, the iPhone. To book a flight, does someone really need a full video with spinning cursors and animating tabs to pick the best time to fly from LAX to JFK?


It becomes a simple business decision for a company like Virgin America. There are 70 million iPhone users. They represent over 60 percent of the mobile web traffic.  Apple won’t support Flash — guess what? No Flash for Virgin America. If I were a Product Manager on a site that had a highly mobile component and made a decision to ignore those 70 million or so iPhone users (most of whom seriously make good money and like to spend it on toys like the iPhone), I should be fired.

The upside — Flash is on the way out.

HTML 5 apparently has support for video without Flash. YouTube is running a beta now if you use Chrome, Firefox and the Chrome plug-in on Internet Explorer). If you take away some of the ads and do most of the normal animations using jQuery, what do you really need Flash for?

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