Third Mind | Flash vs. No Flash
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Flash vs. No Flash

Why is there any discussion on whether or not to use Flash if it can be used to display video, create animations and provide REALLY COOL interactivity on websites?  The word of the day IS <pause for dramatic effect>… compatibility!  The bottom line is, the device landscape is ever changing.  As new web connected devices show up in this market, Flash is not as supported as it was previously.  If you have ever seen an error which reads something like: “ order to view this site you will need Flash Player 10…”  OR a “broken image” with a lower case ‘f’ in the middle, this means you are likely on a device which does not support Flash.  These devices include any Research In Motion (RIM, aka: BlackBerry) products (minus the PlayBook tablet) and Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad and select iPod’s.  This is SUPER important because if your site has Flash or is built entirely using Flash, anyone with one of these devices will NOT be able to use your site properly, or at all!  Don’t get me wrong, Flash IS essential in some applications, enhanced banner ad units are a prime example.  If Flash is 100% needed, be sure you have “back up” non-Flash support of some kind.

So, why would anyone use Flash if there is such limited support?  I know it’s hard to believe but, RIM and Apple do not control the largest share of the “smartphone” mobile market.  (Statistics Alert!)  Combined, they make up 29.7% of the “smartphone” market share (Apple 16.8% | RIM 12.9%*).  The flip side to this argument is, 63.4%+ of the “smartphone” market is made up of various other “smartphones” who’s operating systems DO support Flash (Android 36.0% | Symbian 27.4%*).  The one market where Flash support is a big issue is the tablet market.  This market is currently dominated by Apple with a 68.7% share.**  Keep in mind, the tablet market is still growing, and FAST!  New stats and information are always around the corner.

Worldwide Smartphone Market Share by Operating System and Flash Compatibility

If Flash can do so many “really cool things”, how can we replicate this with something which is better supported?  I’m glad you asked!  There are actually quite a few alternatives out there: jQuery, DHTML and, coming soon to a browser near you, HTML5, to just name a few.  We will get into the guts of these in future episodes.  The “take away” here is, make sure you 1) know the pros and cons to using Flash and 2) analyze your content/audience & devices to know your potential risks in using Flash.  Having this information in your back pocket will allow you to face the challenge: Flash vs. No Flash!

*Source: Gartner (May 2011) :
**Source: Gartner (April 2011) :

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