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Flash: 99% Proof
Thursday, January 11, 2001

Flash: 99% Proof (editorial)

Last year I sounded a call for alarm with my editorial 'A Cancer on the Web called Flash.' I rallied against big-budget Flash sites and the designers who are creating them. These Flashturbations provided little more than, well flash. I even stated that if we as designers did not do something to improve our use of Flash on the web there would be a backlash against Flash from our clients.

Less than five months later the most vocal critic on the web put swing into the backlash. "Flash: 99% Bad!" said Jakob Neilsen about the tool that we have all come to love. And then, in less than one thousand words Jakob pulled the plug on the Internet's best design renaissance. The Flash bubble popped.

Even though I have called Flash a 'Cancer on the Web' and admonished Flash developers to 'Stop abusing their Users,' I love Flash. Because of this I want to see Flash become as integrated into web design as GIFs and CSS. I know Flash is the most powerful cross-platform, interactive development tool available to web developers today and I want to make sure that everybody else knows that too.

Well, for the past week I have read Jakob's Alertbox over and over again. I read it to get a better understanding of the opposition against Flash and to evaluate the best way to change his mind. I researched every comment Jakob made and came to a startling revelation. It seems that Jakob got the title all-wrong.

Flash is not 99% bad, as you might believe from reading the Alertbox article. Flash is 99% Proof, as in half alcohol. You see Flash is not bad for the Internet at all. In fact, compared to non-standard supporting browsers and unstable programming languages, Flash is just what web developers had been asking for since they first opted the <Table> tag to be a sort of online postscript. Flash was a way to design content that would look and behave the same everywhere.

In just a few short years Macromedia took a great little animation package and beefed it up to include all the features web developers wanted. With the release of Flash 4 the potential for creativity was turned up to eleven. Designers were handed the most powerful development tool the web was had ever seen with a note saying "Have Fun!"

This was something to celebrate indeed. Designers would no longer be forced to play a game of concessions for this browser, that operating system and a motley crew of font choices. Our pages would look the same no matter what the configuration was on the user's end. As long as they had the plug-in installed, everything was going to be all right. Designers had control, and we went en mass to the best bars to celebrate.

Letting the good times roll over common sense.

Celebration was great. Web designers deserved it. You suffer under the personal hell that was web design in the 3.0 browser era and we'd see you in the bar too. Designing while intoxicated was not a good idea.

Designers were drunk on the power that Flash offered them. They started to forget the lessons of web design and do the things that they had avoided for years. Splash screen? Just wait until you get a load of this 45-second, 300k intro movie! Annoyed by the blink tag? Take a look at this mouse chaser. We were out of control.

Fueled by the promise of a broadband future, our clients loved the fact that we were drunk too. Clients did not care that Flash sites bore little resemblance to the web of old, now it looked like TV. Interactive TV! Marketing departments all around the world knew about TV, this Flash stuff meant that they didn't have to learn about the web.

What about the users? Without a Loraxx named Jakob to speak for them, users were just fine with super cutting edge Flash sites. They couldn't figure out how to use the Flash sites, which didn't matter at all. They just wanted to be the first person to e-mail all their friends with the latest cool Flash URL.

The only people who were complaining were the usability folks. They had seen just what power drunk designers could do, and boy did they not want to see it happen again. They wanted to make the design community friends of Bill W. as soon as possible. Designers needed to sober up and learn a lesson.

The Radioactive Spider Bite Lesson

The Flash community was starting to sober up. Some of us heard the critics and put down our drinks. We looked at what we had created while drunk on Flash's power and shook our heads. We dusted off the ancient tomes and started over again, working on web design with Flash as a tool, not as the only option.

You see, as we have all learned from Spiderman; along with great power comes great responsibility. Flash developers have a responsibility to the web community, and we totally forgot it. We got power drunk and came pretty close to losing Flash as an option for development. So it is time to sober up and accept our responsibility:

    Flash developers are responsible:
  1. To our clients to create Flash content that meets their goals.
  2. To the users of Flash content to make it a good experience.
  3. To the web to get Flash to meet existing standards.
  4. To other Flash Developers to share our knowledge and experience.
If we can handle the power of Flash then we will reap the rewards of a fulfilling design career. If not, then we will only have thoughts of what could have been.



Join the discussion, add your comments about this editorial.

posted by CHris MacGregor -