POSTED ON SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2011 AT 4:13 PM
I hate Flash! Actually, that's a play on words — we don't hate Flash at all. But we're still hearing this comment quite frequently in our conversations with people about web design lately. We remember exactly how it all began back in our Macintosh computer business days. Not everyone had a high-speed Internet connection up here in North Vancouver in the late nineties. In fact, for quite some time, you couldn't even get ADSL in certain areas of the city thanks to a mile-long waiting list, calls to customer service which resulted in two-hour hold times (excluding those "accidental" disconnects — click — oops, sorry!) plus the fact that you couldn't live any more than about 5,000 feet away from the telephone company's nearest central office*. Not all of the central offices were equipped with ADSL ports at the time (the other high-speed alternative, cable Internet, hadn't been rolled out yet in our neck of the woods).
Those were the days. No matter where you went on the Internet after Flash was introduced in 1996, the words "skip intro" graced the home page of almost every website on planet earth. As Macintosh computer technicians, people would actually ask us if we would "kindly remove Flash Player" from their computers! With slow, 56K dial-up Internet connections and all sorts of problems with early versions of the Flash plug-in crashing Netscape (and the computer it was running on) so frequently, we didn't have much choice but to respect our client's wishes. The very first ADSL service here in Vancouver didn't help either. It was nothing short of a nightmare (it wasn't until cable Internet finally arrived that the telephone company began to smarten up although those annoying automated attendants still have us wondering). Nevertheless, things have certainly changed since then.
Interestingly, after the introduction of Apple's newly revamped MacBook Air in October of 2010 (the first Mac in well over 10 years to ship sans Flash), every brand new Mac sold from that point onward no longer includes a pre-installed copy of Flash. Apple was quoted as saying that "the best way for users to have the most secure and up-to-date version of Flash is to download it directly from the developer". Perhaps there was a little more to it but our PC colleagues tell us that Windows doesn't ship with Flash either.
By disabling Flash, a lot of the functionality (and content) of many websites went missing. Naturally, many videos and presentations were dead in the water. Areas which contained animated banners and logos were missing. Vertical and horizontal Flash-based navigation elements didn't work. And of course, websites which were completely Flash-based didn't work — period. On some websites, we saw the "Missing Plug-In" prompt and on other websites which took our Flash plug-in installation for granted, we saw solid-colored backgrounds with nothing inside of them whatsoever (depending upon the particular browser we were using as well as the method used to embed Flash content in the webpages).
<noscript>display alternate content here</noscript>
* Note that most telephone companies now limit ADSL lines to a maximum of 15,000 feet away from the central office (that's just under three miles). There are many more central offices equipped with ADSL ports today than there were back in the nineties — ADSL Repeaters have also helped to extend distance limitations.
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