Flash in the pan?

I am an ex-Flash user. I uninstalled the Flash plug-in on my primary browser about a month ago, and I haven’t looked back. Here’s how it happened:

Back when Apple announced that its forthcoming iPad would lack Flash support, it sounded to me like a boneheaded move. If a device built for consuming multimedia doesn’t support the web’s leading format for multimedia presentation, what good is it?

But after using my own iPad for a while, I decided I didn’t miss Flash nearly as much as I thought I would. (And I discovered that a lot of web apps I’d assumed were Flash-based were actually built with JavaScript.) Which got me thinking: Could I do without Flash on my main computer as well?

I use a woefully underpowered first-generation MacBook Air that I’d rather not replace just yet. I’d done about all I can think of to squeeze a little more performance out of it, including installing a solid-state hard drive and upgrading the OS to Snow Leopard. Still I found many common activities, particularly web browsing in multiple tabs or windows, painfully slow.

So I decided, as an experiment, to remove the Flash plug-in from my primary web browser, Google Chrome. I still have it in Safari, which I fire up when I need to look at Flash content.

After about a month, here are my impressions:

  • The speed increase on web browsing is much more dramatic than the performance boost I got by adding Snow Leopard and the SSD. And since most of my computing time is spent in a web browser, that gives my old laptop a new lease on life.
  • Fewer obnoxious ads! That alone might make this “upgrade” worthwhile.
  • YouTube and Vimeo both have stable HTML5 video players, though most of the commercial content on YouTube is available only in the Flash player.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s video player works beautifully. (NYT and CNN not so much.)
  • Interactive charts in Google Analytics and Google Finance, sadly, are Flash-based and don’t downgrade gracefully.
  • The Google Maps API is JavaScript based (though there is also a Flash API) so most of the apps produced by my former colleagues at the L.A. Times’ Data Desk still work without a hitch.

In short, for me, the performance jump is worth the occasional inconvenience, but YMMV.

What do you think? Could you live without Flash?

3 Replies to “Flash in the pan?”

  1. I share the same ideology regaing flash. Until the iPad came out, I was not really aware of how badly Flash was affecting my browser performance. I started by install Click-to-Flash, but your idea about totally removing the plugin is radically brilliant. I’m going to rip it out of Safari as soon as I get back to my machine.

    Since using Click-to-Flash, I’ve realized how many sites use flash for elements, which I found odd, but it’s prevalent. I certainly won’t miss it! And Windows users should pull their heads out and realize Flash affects their browser’s performance too!

    Thanks for the great post and opening up my eyes to a new idea.

  2. I used ClickToFlash with Safari for a while. It’s a good option if you use Safari, but last I checked it didn’t work with Chrome, which is my go-to browser. And since these days I only open Safari if I need to use Flash, ClickToFlash is superfluous.

    I would love to see ClickToFlash or a similar plug-in for Chrome.

  3. I’ve just also decided to have flash whenever I need it (as opposed to whenever a web designer has decided that it was good for me to have a flash animation).

    As a user of google Chrome I have installed the no-flash application. This way when I visit websites with flash content, I can choose to view it by clicking play (such as a video), or not (such as an annoying add).

    It’s much faster too

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