The grand No Flash experiment (update)

My dislike of Flash has been well documented, so last month I thought I would try to see what the internet was like without Flash installed, whatsoever. I removed Flash completely from my system, including any Chrome plugin (Chrome has Flash built in).

I’ve never tried to simply go without Flash. I’ve used FlashBlock and AdBlock to block bad Flash, but for the most part, I couldn’t really tell what sites used Flash or not. I wanted to see how far I could go without Flash.

The final answer: not very far at all.

Three sets of websites were difficult or impossible to use:

  • Restaurant websites (who for some reason are determined to make horrible, horrible sites)
  • Video streaming sites (YouTube, Vimeo, and other media outlets)
  • Some food product-related websites

I’d put “musical group website” in the list, but I don’t really visit those much. Sites like Tazo.com, while not a restaurant, rely wholly on Flash for the entire “experience”, offering no options whatsoever for non-Flash browsers (like my iPad and iPhone). The answer of course is not “OMG let’s put Flash on mobile devices!!!1”, but to stop making bad websites.

Other sites surprised me with their use of Flash. For example, GitHub uses Flash to perform its “Copy/Paste” code operations (which I guess is only possible/feasible with Flash). Gmail uses Flash for some more advanced file attachment controls, but at least has a fallback option.

Final verdict? It is not possible (yet) to use the internet without Flash. Which is unfortunate, because the bulk of my “browsing” these days is on the iPad. It’s so, so annoying to have to switch to a desktop to look up a restaurant’s hours. Unfortunate, and totally unnecessary.

Thankfully, Adobe is forcing the hands of web developers somewhat by discontinuing development of their mobile Flash platform. But we can all do our parts to help rid the world of Flash (for bad uses). If I ever run into a totally Flash-dependent website, I write an email to the webmaster, saying I’m a 56-year-old grandmother who can’t use their website on my iPad and that it’s totally ruined my evening.

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About Jimmy Bogard

I'm a technical architect with Headspring in Austin, TX. I focus on DDD, distributed systems, and any other acronym-centric design/architecture/methodology. I created AutoMapper and am a co-author of the ASP.NET MVC in Action books.
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  • Anonymous

    I always assumed you were a 56 year-old grandmother who uses the alias “Jimmy Bogard” to keep everyone in AARP from asking for free tech support. 

  • phil jay

    It really depends on what kind of sites you visit. Unfortunately most (even modern) pages containing media, especially video and audio, can’t do without flash. I’d even say that Youtube is unusable without flash, because their html player sucks pretty hard(at least on desktop). Social media and most *normal* pages work good, but you won’t find many html video tags yet. I have by default disabled all plugins, and first have to enable them for each page. At least I’m not getting overhelmed by the flash monster when visiting unknown fields.

  • Anonymous

    I have a simpler solution. Just wait for Windows 8 to come out and then you can use real Chrome with Flash etc on tablet. So you will no longer need a “desktop”. Finally, it’s about time we have a real yet portable computing device.

    Notice you still need to use Chrome because default “Metro” browser won’t enable plugins either!

    • Anonymous

      lol! I’ll just wait 12 months for that “real” computing device that will cost double what my iPad did and be twice as hard to use. The Windows 8 Slate we have right now is 3x the cost of my iPad, and 3x worse. So maybe things will get better!

      • Anonymous

        Yes things will get better, mark my words…

      • Anonymous

        3x worse : your personal opinion, but cost double ? 64GB Ipad with 3g is 800 + change. You should get same spec with Windows 8 when released at the same price.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t care about specs. I care about a slick, easy to use device, which I got for $500.

          Turns out, only a small minority of tablet buyers actually care about specs (and Flash). Those folks are buying Android slates, at a much, much smaller volume.

    • Chris Tavares

      Actually, the Win8 immersive browser doesn’t support any plugins at all, so no, Win8 won’t do the trick either. You can use the desktop browser, but that’s not as smooth when using it on a tablet.

  • http://kazlauskas.me/ Simonas

    I don’t use Flash for around half year now. I compile Chromium by hands however. For sites such as Youtube and Vimeo there’s always HTML5 Player, which works perfectly. Just don’t forget to make it use system ffmpeg libraries.

    Well, there’s of course are sites which goes flash-only way, however these often are as bad as it could get – too much animations and no actual content, so I just close the tab as I see “You need Flash x.y Installed to see this site”.

  • Aaron

    Why is it that every one preaches don’t break the web, but when it comes to flash it’s ok?  Think how much better our HTML, JavaScript and CSS standard and browsers would be if they would force people to update their web page to render correctly.   

  • Steve Sheldon

    Flash has now become IE6. :-)

  • Nathan Alden

    “It is not possible (yet) to use the internet without Flash” is contradicted by the very next sentence that states you do the bulk of your browsing on the iPad. It seems to be possible after all. I guess I’m not sure what the point of this post is. Flash/Silverlight do things you can’t do with straight markup and CSS, and they meet a very large demand for streaming video, better file upload techniques and snazzy Web site designs. Like anything else it can be overused, but until a superior technology comes along (along with a good adoption rate) it’s what we all must work with.

    • Anonymous

      I have to switch over for those other things. Plus, many sites are designed to detect tablets and appropriately load HTML5 video, instead of using the feature detection approach.

      The only thing I can’t really do on an iPad is browse restaurant websites. And those sites aren’t snazzy, they’re atrocious.

      Games are another thing that Flash is Good At, but I don’t play Flash games on my iPad, I play things from the App Store.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Hollon/1378989420 Richard Hollon

    You can always use Yelp (even in Safari) to look up a restaurant’s business hours.