Flash Free February

So Alessandrini put out a challenge on Twitter:

All those who think no flash on ipad is A-OK please uninstall flash from your current browser, use that for a month then get back to me.

So I’ve gone halfsies and installed FlashBlock for Chrome, which forces me to click whenever I need to see something Flash-based, and I’ll use this entry to report, as the month goes by, what things I would have been unable to do or see due to the lack of Flash. This isn’t meant to prove that everyone will do fine without Flash, nor even that I will. Rather, it will highlight issues to overcome in the near future as well as tell me and you something about my internet habits in relation to Flash.

Or in other words: I walk the walk, but do I talk the talk?

Now, let me say however, that I undoubtedly will run into problems as there are some sites that straight up need Flash to work. I fully expect this, and I would expect the same for the iPad. However I also strongly believe that the lack of Flash on the iPad will lead sites to either ditch Flash entirely, or at least provide both a Flash and a proper solution, downgrading either way, depending on your point of view. This is a good thing in the long run. Yes, it’s a shame that the internet seems to be in a constant period of transition pain—if it isn’t one thing, it’s another—but that’s no excuse to be lazy. Flash is a nightmare in stability, performance and usability; I’m happy to see it go (as I have explained at length in a previous post).

I’ve started by switching both YouTube (read here) and Vimeo (read here) to HTML5, and they’re both working great, though YouTube seemingly doesn’t allow for choosing quality (Vimeo does). I’ll chalk that up to implementation or backend rather than an HTML5 shortcoming. I asked Colin about Viddler, which is on its way (though it is early).

YouTube already works fine on the iPhone with the native app, and Vimeo already switches to h.264, and I expect they’ll do the same on the iPad.

I will update this post with new findings and update on my Twitter account (with the #flashfreefeb tag).

Problem Log:

February 2nd: Embedded videos from YouTube and Vimeo are always Flash, which means you have to go to the site to watch them. YouTube doesn’t copy over and accompanying HTML when embedding, which leaves users with no easy way to go to YouTube’s own site to watch them in HTML5. Double doh. This wouldn’t be a problem for YouTube on the iPad however, as it would switch to the YouTube app for playback. Vimeo on the other hand includes HTML by default, but it can be deselected (or manually deleted), and that leaves you with no option to easily watch the movie.

Here, by the way, is a brilliant example of why Flash needs to be shot out of an airlock. On Vimeo’s site, they’ve made their own Flash-based scrollbar. Why? Who knows. Yes, it’s the designer who needs a good beating, but Flash is the enabler of this kind of unnecessary silliness, which a) should be left alone or b) done in JS/CSS:

Scrollbar in Flash

February 3rd: Google Analytics uses Flash to display most of (but not all) the various graphs it uses, which is silly; they would be just as good and interactive if they had used web standards. So I’m using my Mint installation instead for the time being; the loss in functionality? None.

Huffduffer’s inline audio player is Flash; I’m not sure what the advantages are, I’m sure there are some (Jeremy can no doubt fill me in), probably supports a wider range of formats or something like that. Or it’s easier to make work across all browsers in one fell stroke. Seems like that should be mostly doable with web standards as is however.

YouTube doesn’t allow for fullscreen, or even filling up the browser window with a video. To my knowledge you can’t go entirely fullscreen using current browsers (Webkit nightly excluded. As usual Webkit is where it’s at), but at least they can fill up the browser window quite easily, like Sublime does it.

And while Vimeo does have HTML5 support, they haven’t implemented it extensively enough yet, making it impossible to use Staff Picks for instance.

February 4th: A friend sent me a link for an Australian military tattoo site made in Flash.

A link for the music video for Massive Attacks song Splitting the Atom came through my feeds today; the embedded video was Flash; I hopped over to YouTube and watched it in HTML5 instead. HTML5 video playback on Chrome on OS X is however still not as nice as Flash’s.

February 6th: Engadget loads some odd little Flash thingie that isn’t supposed to be seen by anyone (it points back to Clearspring does the same by the way), which leads me to believe it could be done just as easily without Flash. Oh and then there’s an ad.

Engadget

Also the Fallout: New Vegas teaser trailer site is in Flash.

February 8th: CopyPasteCharacter uses flash. Doh. I love that site.

Got sent a link to a flash-based scratch game. It’s quite fun (well, more novel than fun if I do have to nitpick), nothing I’ll miss though.

February 9th: Bit.ly uses Flash for it’s ‘copy to clipboard’ button. As far as I know there is no cross-browser solution to this, which by the way is the same problem as on CopyPasteCharacter. There are however fairly simply solutions that require the user to only press CMD-C/CTRL-C, which in my opinion is good enough.

February 10th: Flickr’s web uploader (or is it uploadr?) is Flash-based. Gmail’s isn’t as far as I can see, and works just as well.

February 12th: The Danish National Radio broadcasts a 2-hour concert with the Danish band Kashmir live on their site using Flash.

Politiken

Why is it that despite missing 30-40% of Politikens above-the-fold page, I don’t feel like I’m missing out?

February 13th: I went to download the first track from the upcoming UNKLE album “Where did the night fall”, and had to put in my mail address in a Flash field to get a download link. Nevermind that I don’t get why this is needed, but for a mail form to be Flash… This is what you get when lazy Flash developers are set free on the world. The rest of the site is in Flash as well; for no apparent reason, other than to make it slow and unresponsive, it would seem.

February 23rd: Wow, been a while. Haven’t used Flash for anything but embedded videos in the last ten days. But right now I’m watching the MacBreak Weekly live recording stream.

Febeuary 25th: Wasn’t able to play Unicorn Robot Attack. Dammit.