Every other day, or so it seems, there’s an update to Adobe Flash Player. Yet more bug fixes and security loopholes patched up. I don’t let it update automatically, much preferring to wait until something useful bugs me about updating. What makes me chuckle, though, is the desperation exhibited by the download screen.
“Did you know…” is simpers, and then proceeds to tell me about games I never play on Facebook (I’ve actually blocked them), video sites that use Flash (only when I let them) and how many “connected PCs” have the bloatware installed (presumably so they can spread malware and viruses more easily).
When movement and animation on a web page was new and exciting I was a big fan of what was then Macromedia Flash. It was a powerful vector-based animation system, which allowed you to build in interactivity and fun to a web site. I never fully mastered the software, and used it for stupid things like animated GIFs and annoying splash screens.
Then Adobe acquired Macromedia, and killed off their arch rival illustration package FreeHand. Around the same time, I began to wonder why some web sites would cause my Mac’s processing to bog down, setting the otherwise mostly dormant cooling fans to hit warp factor nine.
On investigation, it turned out to be the Flash Player plugin. It turned out the player was running banner ads, and nothing actually useful. Flash Player was a complete resource hog, and was being used to drain my laptop’s battery while selling me crap I didn’t want. Best of all, though, were the magical ballooning adverts that suddenly zoomed over to block the actual content I was reading simply because my mouse cursor strayed nearby. Oh, they were the best, no doubt about it. I lost count of how many mousemats I chewed through in my frustration over those.
I installed a Flash blocker in my browser, and browsing became a much more pleasurable pastime once more. I realise that many of the free sites I use have to sell advertising in order for them to remain free for people like me to use, but there has to be a point when the benefit of advertising is outweighed by the sheer annoyance they cause. It’s amazing what a quiet place the World Wide Web can be when you’re not bombarded by buzzing and rolling adverts all the time.
Of course, once Flash is blocked, you realise just how insidious it has become. Uploading some photos to Facebook, for example, uses Flash to allow multiple uploads. This is same on one forum I frequent. If I don’t allow Flash to run, I have to upload one photo at a time, which is a bit tedious. Some sites still insist on Flash—well, at least it’s not Flash’s drunken cousin Silverlight; let’s not even go to that particular hell—in order to play video. Some sites play nicely and will serve up a lovely HTML5 compliant video, but others resist, like a cat that really doesn’t want to be removed from your lap even though you are desperate to get to the bathroom. If Flash is required to view a video, it really has to be a good video to make me let the Player to run. Otherwise, I’m out of there.
There’s also Flash’s younger brother, Adobe Air. You’ll have come across this if you use the BBC’s iPlayer download thing on your computer. I’ve now banished Air from my systems, but when I thought it was worth keeping around, like Flash it was updated virtually every time I ran it. No more. Now, I can access iPlayer through my telly.
I long for the day when Flash and its band of ne’erdowell relatives disappear into Silicon Heaven.