Why Flash simply doesn’t work

23 11 2009

In the Indiana University School of Informatics, the Media Arts and Sciences program seems to place a high level of emphasis on Flash and ActionScript development. This is extraordinarily frustrating for someone coming from a programming background.

828iwc9.pngFlash has some fatal flaws that should exempt it from being so prominent on the web. However, like Internet Explorer 6, Flash is one of those things that can make life more difficult for a web developer.

System resource usage
Flash makes heavy use of the client machine’s processor. Every time I go to a web page with Flash in it, my MacBook’s fan cranks up higher than it goes in any other situation. There are benchmarks confirming this. Flash simply does not run efficiently on any platform

Proprietary standard
Open source advocates may howl at Flash’s closed architecture. In this case I would agree and at the same time, not care. Adobe has made it so that the only practical way to create a Flash program is with Adobe’s own proprietary and very costly software. There are alternative Flash players to Adobe’s Flash player. Still, the only way to develop Flash programs is through Adobe. If Adobe wants to create a high barrier to entry to their own product, then that is their call. However, Adobe has limited any video playback in Flash to its own .flv format and none other.

Flash, as a web tool, breaks several accessibility conventions. People with poor vision are essentially left out in the cold. Where screen readers can help a blind person get usable information from an HTML page, it is completely useless with a Flash object embedded in the page. By default, Flash does not have options to change things like saturation, brightness, or color. Flash just is not user-friendly for users of the web who cannot see well.

What the School of Informatics needs to do
I am certainly not advocating that the Media Arts and Sciences program completely abandon Flash. Like any other tool, Flash has its own purposes. However, I feel there is simply too much emphasis placed on it. I am only taking five MAS classes for a cognate and two, possibly three, of them will be heavily Flash classes, even with names like “Multimedia Design” and “Interactive Design.” The MAS program needs to stop teaching as though Adobe Creative Suite is the only way to touch the web.

Flash just is not suitable as a web standard. It uses too many system resources, prohibits open development, and leaves out a large portion of the web-using population. Until these things change drastically, Flash will be a limited tool with an ultimately limited future.




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