Flash In the Pan

You’ve no doubt noticed the recent acceleration of the transition from Flash in favor of HTML5, thanks in large part to Apple’s refusal to support Flash on iPhone and iPad. First YouTube, and now TED, Vimeo, CBS, and Time and The New York Times are adding support for HTML5 in addition to, or instead of, Flash.

I’ve lately come to dislike Flash for personal reasons. Specifically, the Shockwave Player plugin is buggy and keeps hanging Chrome in particular and costing me a few minutes every few days while I wait for the “want to kill this plugin?” dialog to come up. It’s not the end of the world, just an annoyance. But it is annoying.

Aside: This seemed to start, or at least get a lot more frequent, around the time I installed Windows 7, which means we can have many interesting discussions about who broke whom. However, in searching around I see on Web forums there’s been a lot of chatter about Shockwave Player crashes on multiple browsers and OSes.

But given that the world is starting to move on anyway, and because I like to tinker, I wondered what “the Web without Flash” would look like on my PC. I already know what it looks like on my iPhone, but the PC gets heaver use and I generally use it to visit richer sites.

So yesterday I decided to take the plunge and uninstall Flash entirely. Flash used to be a de rigueur add-on. Now I’ll see what the Web is like without it.

So far, so good. My Machine Architecture talk on Google Video doesn’t play, but other than that the main difference is just that I see less distracting content and that I get a cute little bar at the top of many pages asking me to install a plugin to fully display the page; dismissing the bar only lasts for the duration of the page, but I find that the bar quickly fades into the background of consciousness.

We’ll see how long I can last sans Flash.

9 thoughts on “Flash In the Pan

  1. Why aren’t you using FlashBlock? I’ve been using FlashBlock by default for years, both with Firefox and now Chrome (which is not my main browser – I believe menus are superior to cryptic toolbars).

    I also disable Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Realplayer etc. plugins, as well as PDF plugins. In fact, the only plugin I enable is Flash, but that’s conditional on a case by case basis with FlashBlock.

    PDFs are the biggest security risk, but I don’t trust other media players either.

  2. A slightly less radical solution (at least in Chrome and Firefox, don’t know about other browsers) would be to install FlashBlock.
    It makes browsing much more pleasant and still gives you the option to see selected Flash content with the click of a button.

  3. Yeah a lot of people say HTML5 video has no benefit over flash but here’s what I’ve noticed on youtube (chrome on linux vs firefox with flash on linux):

    + Much, much snappier interface.
    + You can change the playback speed!
    + ‘Scrubbing’ through the video is extremely fast.
    + Page loads much faster (no plugin to load!)
    + Doesn’t crash browser (for some reason flash crashes firefox on exit every time)
    + No reload when you change the video size.
    – No fullscreen mode yet afaict. I think it might work on windows.
    – Appears to be using nearest-neighbour filtering on the video.
    – Not sure if subtitles/annotations work yet (although maybe that’s a plus!)

    They’ll need to add a ‘Don’t ask again’ option to the “You need to install a plugin” bar at some point.

  4. Sounds like you want the Flashblock extension. I use it on Firefox, but it’s also available on Chrome. With the extension, you’re not annoyed by the plugin bar, and when you really need to you can run the flash with one more click.

    https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/cdngiadmnkhgemkimkhiilgffbjijcie

    “Flashblock is an extension for the Google Chrome that blocks all Flash content from loading. It then leaves placeholders on the webpage that allow you to click to download and then view the Flash content.”

  5. For Firefox there is Flashblock, which is one of my favorite add-ons. It gives you the feeling, what the web is without Flash, but in case you really need it, just activate it by a single click.

  6. @all: Cool. I didn’t use Flashblock because (a) I try to use minimal plugins (usually <4 including Flash) and (b) I didn't know about that one otherwise in this case I would have resorted to it already to try to solve the problem. I'll try it.

    @Dusty: Cool! That they would announce better Flash support this very day. I see they were polite enough not to mention the chronic crashing issue. :) Hopefully a non-developer release of Chrome that includes improved Flash support will be available soon.

  7. I wholeheartedly agree with your flash dislike, especially because of how slowly it runs on my Mac. I wanted to suggest an in-between alternative for you. There are a few “flash block” extensions for chrome available and the one I use works really well. Instead of a whole bar at the top asking you to install flash, you get a small no-flash icon in the address bar. Then, for something you really want to see using flash, you can click on the icon to quickly enable it for the lifetime of that tab.

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