Flash Still Sucks, And I Have Proof
Adobe Flash, It Shouldn’t Even Be For Video Anymore
You remember Flash, right? Back before the iPhone it was all the rage, for several reasons: you could make animations or whole websites with interactivity and everything; it was a way to include video without worrying about pesky codecs and wrappers; and it was, in its day, a way to make sure your websites, or elements on your websites, appeared and acted the same no matter what browser users were using. Well times have changed, and recent years haven’t been good to Flash.
Death to Flash, Part 1
Also HTML5 video standards promised a way to embed video in websites without the need for a plugin. As these standards began to be implemented in browsers in the late aughts and early 2010s, the “need” for Flash began to decrease, though the large population of Flash developers & websites helped ensure the death of Flash would be long and slow.
Death to Flash, Part 2: The iPhone Effect
It was the release and subsequent success of the iPhone in 2007 that really spelled the death of Flash, though this was not obvious at the time.
The iPhone, you see, did not support Flash.
Critics immediately lambasted this lack and claimed that either the iPhone would have to support Flash eventually or it would die. But once it became obvious that people were buying iDevices and watching videos on them, the major purveyors of video (YouTube especially) began implementing iPhone-compatible HTML5 video. And while you might get the dreaded “Video Playback Is Not Supported on This Device” message on a few mobile websites, it is increasingly rare.
Here’s My Proof That Flash Video Sucks
OK, proof may be a little strong, let’s say evidence. There is a dichotomy now where a company or organization has both a website and an app, both stream video, but one uses Flash and the other uses HTML5. In every single case the non-Flash experience is better than Flash. Here are my samples:
MLB.TV is often touted as one of the, if not the, most profitable and best apps on the App Store, and for good reason. It’s main feature is live HD streaming of all out-of-market games (yes, only out of market, cough cough). As with all these examples, over the same network, comparing the quality and consistency, the app tends to work great while the website, while it often works, tends to have lower quality picture and much more stuttering and stopping.
This app & website has been my savior for the first round of the World Cup, streaming every first round game live and free (one finger salute to ESPN who streamed free World Cup games last time, but not this year). Again, the app has streamed beautifully and while the website stream has worked better than the one from MLB.TV, the quality tends to be lower, and sometimes when it’s having trouble streaming it hits the pause button on its own, leaving me to figure that out for myself after the game has been paused for longer than normal.
OK, this one may be a little different, because Amazon prefers using Silverlight to Flash, and I believe that’s the plugin I’m using now. And I have to admit that now that I’m on my home U.S. network the streaming has worked pretty well, though again it sometimes drops down to a lower quality and occasionally but not that often stops to buffer. Interestingly when this happens the best solution seems to be to manually rewind a few seconds, otherwise it often comes up and says it can’t stream anymore, which is a lie. However, in Chile, on an iffier network, the iPad app experience was far superior to trying to use the laptop. Things tended to stream all the way through on the iPad while on the computer it often wouldn’t stream at all. Actually, now that I think about, this is another good example of Flash sucking. Much as I’m not a Microsoft fan, even Amazon hates Flash and wants you to use Silverlight, and that experience seems to be better than Flash on Prime.
Why Won’t Flash Die?
So why haven’t these companies switched their browser-based video to non-Flash/HTML5 formats? Not sure, but a conversation with someone recently offers a plausible set of explanations: these companies have a group of people in place whose careers are based on knowing and implementing Flash on their websites. Between supporting an existing infrastructure probably being cheaper in the short term than switching over (although almost certainly more expensive in the long term, having to support two types of video) and these people whispering in their supervisors’ ears telling them how they need to keep using Flash, the Flash death watch could be a very long one. In the long run, however, I’m confident that Flash in general and Flash video in particular will continue their downward spiral, and eventually you will be hard-pressed to find any Flash-based video on the web. And based on my experience, that’s a fine thing.