In the past few years, Adobe Flash has become more than an annoyance that some of us have kept in check by using "block Flash" plugins for our web browsers. More and more, entire web sites are being built with Flash, and they have no HTML alternative at all! This goes way beyond annoying, into the realm of crippling.
I had noticed the trend building for quite awhile, but it only really hit home when I realized that Google, of all companies, had redesigned its formerly accessible Analytics site to rely heavily on Flash for displaying content. This wouldn't be absolutely horrible except for the fact that Google provides no HTML alternative. I tried to needle the company through its Analytics forums, but only received assurance that yes, indeed, one must have the Flash plugin running to view the site.
Keep in mind that content like that on Google Analytics is not mere marketing information, like the sales pitch on the Analytics home page.
Those of us who are disturbed by the trend need to be a bit more vocal about our opinion. Hence, I'm starting a "Just Say No To Flash!" campaign, with its own web page, graphics for a banner, and the CSS and HTML code to deploy it on your own web pages.
I've mentioned this to some of my family and friends, and they often come back with: "So, Why should I say no to Flash?" I admit that as a power browser and a programmer geek type who, shall we say, makes more efficient use of the web, I'm more keenly aware of the ways that Flash is chipping away at the foundation of web content.
In the beginning, it seemed harmless: Flash was an alternative to animated GIFs, and an easy way to embed movies on web pages. But then advertisers wrapped their meaty mitts around it, and that's when Flash started to be annoying. However, one could block Flash in the browser, as part of a strategy of shutting out obnoxious advertising.
But publishing content via Flash is just wrong, for a number of reasons.
➠It's A Proprietary Technology
I don't think Flash is what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he created the first web browser and the markup language called HTML to run the web. Then, as now, the web is meant to be open to all. It is meant to be built using open standards that belong to no individual or company. The main open formats that should be used to build websites are simply:
- Images (open formats)
Open standards for video, audio, vector graphics, virtual 3D graphics, animated graphics, and others are also available to be thrown into the mix.
Adobe PDF is also a common format for distributing final-form documents, and PDF is based on open specifications for both PDF and PostScript that Adobe published back in the 1990s.
➠ It Isn't Backwards-Compatible
If you install a Flash plugin today, there's no guarantee you'll be able to view Flash content created 2 months from now.
If you have a Flash plugin from 5 years ago, it's probably useless today.
Flash is designed with built-in obsolescence, forcing users to repeatedly visit the Adobe website to get an upgrade. This is not only a bother, it forces one company's advertising into the world's face every time it releases a software update.
➠It Can't Be Customized
From time immemorial (well, at least since the beginning of web time), a web page's text could be customized to suit the user's taste and needs. All web browsers provide the tools to increase/decrease the font size, as well as to specify custom fonts for different page elements (headers, paragraphs, etc).
Flash throws all of that out the window with a terse shrug, "Let 'Em Eat Helvetica 10pt."
➠Its Content Is Inaccessible
No, you can't drag and drop images or text from Flash content. This most basic method of interacting with a web page—dragging images off the page, or selecting sections of the page to drag onto an email or text processor—is a non-starter if it's part of a Flash file.
Copy and paste? If the Flash programmer has been thoughtful, you should be able to copy and paste text. But don't even try to copy any other page element.
And that includes copying a link's URL. Right-click (Ctrl-click) anywhere in a block of Flash content, and you get the standard Flash popup menu. Not very helpful.
➠You Can't Save The Page
Another common task many web users take for granted is the ability to save a web page as text, as HTML, or as a format like rich-text format. With Flash, this is impossible.
You may be able to save the file as a web archive, but there's no open standard for a "web archive," and getting at the content inside one is almost as hard as getting inside a Flash movie.
➠Flash Consumes More Of Your Computer
When I'm running Flash — as I am now while shopping at Adobe — my Activity Monitor shows it's consuming a continuous 5-percent of my processing power, and about 130 MB of my RAM.
For What? There's nothing a Flash movie can deliver that can't be delivered using open formats. its heavy resource drain is one reason I keep Flash turned off when browsing the web.
➠You Can't View Flash on an iPhone or iPad
Apple has very good reasons for not supporting Flash on its tiny devices. As the previous point makes clear, Flash isn't a delicate, lightweight technology that your processor and RAM won't notice.
When trying to build hardware and software for small devices that work well and don't lead to memory problems or application crashes, why wouldn't you ditch unnecessary technologies like Flash?
Obviously, Steve Jobs stepped into a hornets nest here, but I think the hornets were wrong.
Make Your Site Say No To Flash
It's easy! Just follow these two steps:
1. Download the Image(s)
You can copy and save one of the following images, or download the Photoshop source and make your own.
2. Add the CSS
Here are two CSS styles for positioning the Just Say No To Flash banner on your web page. One positions the banner at the top-right, and the other at the bottom-right. To use the styles, just copy and paste the following code into the
<HEAD> portion of your HTML.
background: url(images/noFlashTR.png) top right no-repeat;
background: url(images/noFlashTR.png) bottom right no-repeat;
3. Add the HTML
Add the following to the beginning of your HTML, just below the
<BODY> tag, or at the end, just before the closing
<a id="noFlash" href="http://www.musingsfrommars.org/notoflash/" title="Just Say No To Flash!"> Just Say No To Flash! </a>
Thanks to the "Too Cool for Internet Explorer" campaign run by w3junkies for the concept behind "Say No To Flash," as well as for the general outline of information that campaign provided.