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Why slashdotters really hate Flash

fiannaFailMan (702447) writes | more than 10 years ago

User Journal 14

Slashdotters hate Flash. Period. Try posting anything in favour of Flash anytime the subject comes up and you'll see what I mean. I even saw one guy go as far as to say that 'Flash can only be used for evil.' Gawd! Tell us how you really feel!

Here are the criticisms that they come up with:

Slashdotters hate Flash. Period. Try posting anything in favour of Flash anytime the subject comes up and you'll see what I mean. I even saw one guy go as far as to say that 'Flash can only be used for evil.' Gawd! Tell us how you really feel!

Here are the criticisms that they come up with:

  1. Flash is bad because it is used for annoying animations that get in the way of website usability
  2. Flash is bad because it is used to spring music on people without warning
  3. Flash is bad because it hogs the processor

Let's take criticism 1.

The web is full of websites that have annoying popup and popunder ads. I find popunders to be the most annoying thing in all creation. What happens is an ad pops up and blocks my view of what I'm reading. I go Ctrl+w or Apple+w to close the popup. Just before my command makes it, javascript kicks in and puts the popup under the window I'm reading from, and I lose the window I was reading only to be left with an ad for Netflix that I don't need to read because I already subscribe to them!

I'm sorry, but that is the most annoying thing on the web today, not Flash. So where is the chorus of anti-javascript hatred? Where are the claims that javascript 'can only be used for evil?' Nowhere.

Why?

Because javascript is something that slashdotters feel more comfortable with. It fits in with their way of doing things. It's a programmer's language. Programming-types use it, therefore it must be good, regardless of how much it is abused and badly-used. But Flash is a whole different matter. Flash was initially used by graphic-design type people. And of course those bozos don't know what they're doing, not like us geniuses, eh?

So what happens is we have two technologies, both of them used well and abused in roughly equal amounts. One is used by programmes, the other is (supposedly) used by artists. Well programmers are better than artists, therefore 'our' technology is okay but 'their' technology sucks. Stands to reason doesn't it? Never mind the fact that it's not the technology's fault that it gets abused, let's blame the technology anyway while saying nothing about the people on our own side of the fence who abuse javascript.

Moreover, Flash has moved on from the days of animations. In fact, go to any Macromedia user group and confess to creating animations and the response will be 'shame on you!' Flash is nowadays used for querying databases and displaying data without refreshing a whole page of HTML. For example, e-Trade used to have a little Flash app on their website that let you query prices of a particular stock. You type in the ticker symbol, press the button, and after a second or two the price would appear in the swf without having reloaded a single byte of HTML. A bit more efficient than redisplaying the whole page for the sake of updating one little string of characters. This is a whole different approach to web-based applications. The metaphor of the 'page' is inefficient for complex interactive sites like Travelocity or Netflix etc.

Oh, and Flash is also the most sophisticated web-based video-playback platform yet developed.

Criticism 2: "Flash is bad because it springs music on people without warning."

Well Flash isn't the only technology capable of doing that. I seem to remember java applets doing that to me in years gone by. Once again, I didn't hear any complaints from slashdotters about the evils of Java. The fallacy behind this criticism is the same as that behind criticism 1 above. It's not the technology's fault that it gets abused from time to time.

Criticism 3: "It hogs the processor."

Okay, I'll give you that. But for Joe Consumer surfing the net in his living-room, I don't think he's gonna be aware of any problem unless he's doing a bit of finite element analysis in the background.

Bottom line: Don't blame the technology. Flash has moved on from creating animations. In fact a lot of Flash stuff is now being done without making any use of the timeline. I've seen some people create apps in which they never show the stage. The developer tools are getting more powerful with each release, it has evolved into a fully-fledged software development environment. If you're a programming type and you had doubts about Flash before, I invite you to look again and get into it. You might actually like it if you opened your mind and gave it a chance!

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Broadband penetration (1)

bofkentucky (555107) | more than 10 years ago | (#8820112)

In the US it is what ~30%, and even less in the rest of the world. Flash, shockwave, and java, take far more bits to convey the exact same message that XHTML + CSS + Javascript can, it just takes a good programmer to get it to work cross platform. Your example of etrade could easily be done with an IFRAME + Perl/PHP/Ruby/$language on the server side, and transmit far fewer bits.

Nope, Flash really does suck. (1)

devnull17 (592326) | more than 10 years ago | (#8820207)

Flash is bad for a number of reasons. The three that you enumerate are minor factors, but you're missing the most important ones:

  • It's bloated. Most Flash-based advertisements consume more bandwidth than every other element of the page on which they're displayed.
  • Those monuments to "developer" hubris known as splash pages. They're useless and wasteful. See previous entry.
  • No source access. One of the nicest features of the web is the ability to view the source of whatever code your browser is currently displaying. Not with Flash.
  • It doesn't behave like text. There are all kinds of things that one can do with HTML: you can save, cut, copy and paste blocks of text and images at will. You can link to sections within a document. In most browsers, you can right-click on a link and choose to open it in a different window or tab. There are even a number of browser-based enhancements that perform such useful tasks as remembering usernames and passwords for you. With Flash, the difficulty of performing these tasks ranges from difficult to impossible.
  • Worst of all, it is grossly misused. Flash is a great tool for creating animations--something that you couldn't previously do over the web without overcoming a staggering number of obstacles. But in the five or so years of enormous success that the product has enjoyed, it's morphed from a relatively efficient, lightweight animation tool into an ugly, bloated monster that does dozens of things that could be more easily, efficiently, and usefully accomplished with DHTML. Unfortunately, Macromedia seems determined to make the damn thing into a programming language/publishing platform/electric dog polisher/HTML replacement.

    A year or two ago, Macromedia overhauled its own website, making it entirely Flash-based. It was a nightmare. It sometimes took over a second before text you entered would appear in a text box. Pages scrolled choppily. You couldn't tab among fields. The menus were clunky and awkward. It seemed like everything you could have done on the old site took take twice as long on the new site. And for what? Some antialiased text and a gradient in the background? Great tradeoff.

Yes, I agree that Flash has its place. But I'm sick of seeing it overused and abused, and making the Web a less useful place in the process. Worse still, about 95% of what I see in Flash-based web sites could easily be accomplished to much greater effect with some carefully crafted DHTML.

Re:Nope, Flash really does suck. (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#8820407)

"It's bloated. Most Flash-based advertisements consume more bandwidth than every other element of the page on which they're displayed."

What you said doesn't imply that Flash is bloated, but rather that people make bloated content. That's not Flash's fault. I can make JPEGs or GIFs the same way.

"Those monuments to "developer" hubris known as splash pages. They're useless and wasteful. See previous entry."

Again, not Flash's fault.

"No source access. One of the nicest features of the web is the ability to view the source of whatever code your browser is currently displaying. Not with Flash."

So? I don't provide Photoshop .PSD files for every image I make. I don't make the Premiere or After Effects files I used to make .AVIs available on the web. Why should Flash be different?

"It doesn't behave like text."

I agree with this argument. This part sucks.

"Worst of all, it is grossly misused."

Again, not Flash's fault. Flash is not 'bad' for this. It's the people making Flash stuff that are being 'bad'.

"Worse still, about 95% of what I see in Flash-based web sites could easily be accomplished to much greater effect with some carefully crafted DHTML."

In a way I agree with this, in a way I don't. Frankly, I wish Flash would replace HTML. I know this isn't a popular opinion here, but Flash's strengths are hard to ignore. I can give you two real strong reasons right off the top of my head.

1.) Being that it's vector based, it can be resized to any resolution. That may not be the desired effect for everybody making content for it, but there really is no effective way to do this with DHTML.

2.) It renders the same no matter where it's viewed. HTML still can't even dream of doing this.

I could probably cook up more reasons, but I'll just leave it at that. I have been annoyed with Flash just as you have, but I'm not mad at Macromedia over it.

Re:Nope, Flash really does suck. (1)

devnull17 (592326) | more than 10 years ago | (#8828428)

So? I don't provide Photoshop .PSD files for every image I make. I don't make the Premiere or After Effects files I used to make .AVIs available on the web. Why should Flash be different?

Apples to oranges. When you're talking about Flash in the context of animation, I agree. But as an HTML replacement, it fails to provide a lot of the functionality that HTML has always offered. That's my problem with it.

Being that it's vector based, it can be resized to any resolution. That may not be the desired effect for everybody making content for it, but there really is no effective way to do this with DHTML.

There are certainly ways of doing this with some careful CSS and DHTML application. Can you name something layout-related that can be done in Flash that is flat-out impossible in DHTML? I can't think of anything.

It renders the same no matter where it's viewed. HTML still can't even dream of doing this.

It renders the same everywhere because it's a proprietary, closed format held tightly by a single vendor. There are inherent trade-offs in using standards. I'm not saying that Macromedia is greedy and evil in keeping Flash proprietary, but I am saying that it puts the technology at a distinct disadvantage when compared to alternatives.

Used appropriately, Flash is great. But it seldom is, and it's difficult not to blame something that is so readily abused, particularly when its creators have aided, abetted and encouraged its misuse.

Re:Nope, Flash really does suck. (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8838458)

[Flash] fails to provide a lot of the functionality that HTML has always offered
And HTML fails to provide a lot of the functionality that Flash offers.
There are certainly ways of doing this with some careful CSS and DHTML application.
Yeah, and the chances of it working in every browser are proportional to the number of weeks you have to spend tweaking it. I remember spending weeks trying to get a simple set of DHTML rollover menus working on a decent number of browsers. No sooner did I fix a problem in one browser than another problem appeared in another browser. With Flash you don't even have to think about browser compatibility, all you have to worry about is the plugin version.
It renders the same everywhere because it's a proprietary, closed format held tightly by a single vendor.
Incorrect. There are tonnes of third party Flash authoring tools. There is nothing stopping anyone from writing a Flash plugin for their favourite browser.
it's difficult not to blame something that is so readily abused, particularly when its creators have aided, abetted and encouraged its misuse.
I'm sorry, but you've completely lost me here. Please explain how Macromedia have 'aided, abetted and encouraged' the abuse of Flash.

Re:Nope, Flash really does suck. (1)

devnull17 (592326) | more than 10 years ago | (#8839534)

And HTML fails to provide a lot of the functionality that Flash offers.

Like...? Aside from the timing and animation features that I mentioned in a previous post, I can't think of anything. (Provided, of course, that you have a server that supports some manner of server-side scripting [PHP, ASP, JSP, etc.].) If you're talking about dynamically updating only part of a page, you can achieve the exact same effect with an <iframe>, at a considerably lower cost in bandwidth and CPU cycles.

Yeah, and the chances of it working in every browser are proportional to the number of weeks you have to spend tweaking it. I remember spending weeks trying to get a simple set of DHTML rollover menus working on a decent number of browsers.

Years ago, this was the case. I haven't had problems with browser compatibility in a long, long time--sure, Netscape 4 and IE3 are a pain in the ass, but there are plenty of pre-packaged scripts that do the job there. If you know what you're doing, it's not terribly difficult to make things work properly.

Incorrect. There are tonnes of third party Flash authoring tools.

I'm aware. Does Macromedia endorse them? Did the authors have to reverse-engineer the file format, or do they have a spec? And, most importantly, does Macromedia guarantee that future versions of the Flash player won't break compatibility with older scripts?

There is nothing stopping anyone from writing a Flash plugin for their favourite browser.

This is ludicrous. That's an enormous undertaking. Furthermore, once you have separate implementations, there are bound to be discrepancies among them, particularly if some of them were built without access to the original specs from Macromedia. This segmentation is the direct cause of the incompatibilities among browsers that you bemoan so loudly. And could you guarantee compatibility with all of the new Flash-based products that Macromedia is now offering?

Please explain how Macromedia have 'aided, abetted and encouraged' the abuse of Flash.

By encouraging its use as an HTML replacement. Not that I blame them--their primary goal is to sell software. Their website no longer appears to be the Flash-based nightmare that it once was, but there was a time when every sentence, image and form field was part of a Flash element. It provided absolutely nothing in terms of functionality, and failed to implement keyboard shortcuts (including tabs) and was abysmally slow to render. The fact that they shied away from so heavily using their own technology speaks volumes for the viability of using it for entire websites.

I'll say it again: Flash, which judiciously used, is great. But it seldom is. You could say the same thing for DHTML--few people build websites that are as useable and convenient than they should be. There are some wonderful, easy-to-use sites that use Flash heavily, and I have no problem with those. It's the other 95% that I have issues with. It's very, very hard to make something completely useless in pure DHTML. You virtually have to go out of your way to do it (by disabling right-clicking, making text fade in and out, etc.). With Flash, OTOH, it takes a good deal of effort and knowledge to get it right--and most people don't.

Re:Nope, Flash really does suck. (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8821905)

*Sigh*

I have dealt with most of these in my journal entry but I will try again and hopefully someone will listen:

It's bloated

I disagree. It is only bloated when not used properly, just like jpg or gif. Because it's vector based, it's less likely to be bloated.

Those monuments to "developer" hubris known as splash pages

This is an abuse of the technology, not the fault of the technology itself. I've seen splash screens in HTML with big jpg images on them too. Does HTML and jpg suck?

No source access.

You can't access the source of jpgs or gifs either. Why would you want to?

It doesn't behave like text

It is possible to do all of this in Flash. If the author didn't, it's probably because he had a reason.

Worst of all, it is grossly misused

Not the fault of the technology. As I have tried to explain, javascript is abused much more than Flash with that crime against humanity the popup, and its even worse atrocity the popunder. I ask again, where are the howls of protest about javascript?

Re:Nope, Flash really does suck. (1)

devnull17 (592326) | more than 10 years ago | (#8828574)

As an animation technology, I have no problems with Flash. But in about 95% of the situations in which it is used, it shouldn't be.

JavaScript (or, in this case, DHTML) is a fantastic technology. It has a myriad of legitimate uses, including truly dynamic web pages, client-side data validation and processing, and many others. Yes, it is frequently misused. But it has a few things going for it that Flash does not:

  • DHTML adds an amazing number of things to the Internet "experience," as you will. There are many, many useful things that are possible only because we have DHTML. Aside from complex animation (you can fake simple things in DHTML, and IE has its own multimedia timing library) and perhaps some obscure, questionable things like font embedding, I can't say the same for Flash.
  • DHTML is complimentary to HTML. You can sprinkle it throughout your code, and if a user decides that he doesn't want to execute scripts, that's fine. If some idiot is bouncing text along my status bar, I can turn that off and still view the contents of the page. Not so with Flash. Everything's neatly packaged in one atomic file/HTTP stream. Don't like your menus flying around and changing colors like a hamster on speed? Well, buddy, better grab some Excedrin, because you really don't have a choice.

Also, too much is made of Flash's vector-based foundation. I have yet to see a Flash site that doesn't use this capability to display almost exclusively raster images. (Gradients excepted; that is one area in which Flash has a distinct advantage.) And if you're talking layout, compare the size of a Flash stream with the size of a <table> block. It's a more fair comparison.

And then there's the whole accessibility thing. When Flash becomes even a little bit compliant with the WAI [w3.org] , we'll talk.

I'm sorry if I sound like an ass. I agree with a good deal of what you're saying, and it sounds like we're just arguing over details. And no, it isn't the technology that's the problem. But when it's so horribly misused by just about everyone, including its creators, it's hard not to blame the platform.

Saw your sig and couldn't resist... (1)

May Kasahara (606310) | more than 10 years ago | (#8820222)

I think there's a reason why creating animations with Flash is looked down upon (as you claim): the program was not made for animation. I'd go so far to say that as an animation tool, it flat-out sucks, and there are far more versatile and friendlier vector and layer-based animation apps from the likes of Adobe. It's being increasingly used in broadcast animation these days (not only commercials, but whole TV shows!), which is why I'm not so sure that it's days are numbered as an animation platform.

However, as a graphic design app, it's quite powerful. Tools for interactivity were always one of Macromedia's strong points. Still, given a choice, I'd rather design a plain HTML page in Dreamweaver (with whatever includes and other extras written in BBEdit or what have you) than have to deal with Flash's mind-numbing UI.

I've personally never seen the "Flash sucks" arguement from anyone on Slashdot, but you make a valid point as to why anyone would say that. Guess it's like Photoshop vs. The Gimp, in a way...

What I hate about Flash (1)

Elpacoloco (69306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8821679)

Surfing...reading news website.

Suddenly, the sound of squeeling tires fills my ears? Oh no, has some lunatic gone flying down my street? It sounds like it's coming straight for me!

No, turns out it was just a flash ad.

I was not expecting sound at this time!

(Thankfully, I've installed flash-click-to-view. If you want my attention, you'll need my permission.)

Re:What I hate about Flash (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 10 years ago | (#8821869)

Did you read my journal entry at all? Uninvited sound is an abuse of the technology, not the fault of the technology itself. Java can be abused in just the same manner.

I agree, it is a social problem. (1)

Elpacoloco (69306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8822100)

They're abusing the fact that flash loads basically automatically.

Another thing I hate is people who use flash for navagation.

USE LINKS YOU BRAINLESS CHIMPS!!!!!

That is all.

why i hate flash (1)

gargan (4764) | more than 10 years ago | (#8822274)

i dont actually hate flash. im not a programmer, im not a web developer, im just a guy who is aware of how these things work but cant do it.

from a user perspective flash can be great or it can suck. in firefox it's fine, because i can install flash click to play and adblock, and still use the flash i want. same goes for javascript. can block what you dont want and allow what you do.

but this isnt a discussion of how great firefox is. the point is that they are both abused in conjunction i.e., popup flash windows! i even get these at penny arcade for final fantasy games. i like final fantasy and i like penny arcade, but the fact that some webmonkey thought it would be a good idea to bombard me with it in an intrusive way pisses me off.

however the points you make about database retrieval and interactivity are valid. there's also good use of javascript and dhtml. point is, technology is good or evil as always, and it kind of ruins the tone of your post to take the worst example of the bunch and base your argument on that.

nice sig, btw.

Ok, I'm biting here... (1)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 10 years ago | (#8879264)

Look, as 'Joe Consumer' I really don't have a problem with Flash other than the occasional loud 'smack-you-in-the-back-of-the-head' kind of ads.

My issue probably has more to do with plug-ins in general than Flash in specific.

Question: Is it possible to surf the Internet today without Flash?

Answer: Yes, but it sucks if you're a teenage girl.

I'm the admin of a small private girls school. I once had what I thought was a brilliant plan of putting all of the dorm access through terminal services. It worked great until a few girls surfed to favorite band sites (with lots of active Flash animation), gaming sites, and the like.

And it wasn't just Flash either. It was Shockwave and Java too. I could have up to 40 students plugging away at the same time on one powerful server but it would only take ONE girl on some Shockwave-based game to totally nail one of the processor's usage up to 100%.

MS's 'fix' consisted of blocking the offending site. Well hell, I could do THAT all day (gotta catch 'em all!) I asked if there was a way to set priority levels for plug-ins (no). In short, my plan failed, and it was a total shame too. I don't directly blame Flash for it, but it does annoy me when you see some Tetris clone eating 98% CPU time of a 2.2 GHz Athlon 64.

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