But I Still Hate Flash

26 June 2008

Today I did the unthinkable. I’m ashamed to admit, it was exhilarating. I programmed in javascript.

Ok, so it was just a dynamic dropdown changing based on other criteria selected in the form. Not exactly Gmail or Overpages. But still, this is Me we’re talking about. I turned off javascript entirely for the first 3 years it was included in Netscape.

A few things helped me transition to this break-through. Firefox added better pop-up blocking, and disabled needlessly malicious javascript features like “make my browser window resize and bounce all over my screen”. Google released amazing interactive apps like Gmail that fixed web usability I never even realized were broken. I got a Macbook, and Safari actually keeps tabs to themselves, instead of letting javascript steal the focus. And, when it comes down to it, javascript became so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to actually use the intertubes with it turned off.

That said, I still hate Flash.

I should be more specific – I hate “Flash websites”. You know the kind – the ones that take 30 seconds to load, and attempt to re-implement basic web functionality like links, scrollbars, and form elements. This time without any of the basic usability you’ve come to depend on to navigate the web — like opening links in new tabs, increasing font size, copying text, pasting URLs to friends, and so on.

I still use Flash Block in Firefox to prevent Flash from running without my explicit permission. That started one day when I went to TV Guide’s website. They had a Flash advertisement on the page where a race car literally started driving around on my web browser, complete with loud obnoxious engine sounds blaring out of my speakers. I actually uninstalled Flash that exact moment, and didn’t reinstall until I heard about Flash Block. With Flash Block I can play youtube videos and similar sane flash elements, while avoiding the tasteless ads, and getting good warning before subjecting myself to a horrific all-Flash website.

In truth, Javascript can still be used in equally evil ways. Pop-up ads when you click anywhere in a page, for instance. Or links that, instead of being an actual link, include some obfuscated javascript function, preventing browser functionality like “open in new tab” or “bookmark” from working. Heck, even with bare html, there was still Geocities, and now Myspace, to worry about.

I guess it all comes down to usability. Give site designers and developers reasonably powerful tools, even if it’s enough rope to hang themselves with. Now the really hard part is convincing your PHB and Marketing not to hang themselves.

Now there’s an idea. If only bad flash sites really did hang their designers…

This entry was posted on 26 June 2008 and is filed under Programming, Tech Support.

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