Two! Four! Six! Eight! Numbers we appreciate!

I write every once in a while about Flash Player statistics, which I hope is interesting and useful for you. As product managers for Flash Player, Justin Everett-Church and I are responsible for managing and interpreting the data related to Flash Player. That data includes the penetration study, as well as player download and installation metrics. So, forgive me for bringing up old news, but I was out on vacation when the Firefox 3 Download Day happened. I was (quite happily) checked out enough to not really hear anything about it until I got back in the office this month. I understand a few Adobe folks blogged about how our Flash Player numbers were also world-record worthy, and a lot of different download numbers often show up in blogs and press without any context of time period. Is the number of daily downloads a useful metric? What do these numbers really say?

Don’t get me wrong — I love data, and download numbers ARE interesting. But, as with any data, you need to figure out what the numbers tell you and why they are important. Adobe tends to talk about the install rate of Flash Player quite often, although it may not be the right number for people to focus on since it doesn’t give you context, and you have to take our word for it. For Firefox, the download number is interesting because they wanted to beat their numbers for the previous release, and to generate buzz for the current release by submitting it for a world record — which was verified by a third party.

It’s interesting to note that for Adobe, the number that is quoted is an “install” and not a “download” number. We’ve never said how many downloads happen a day because it is a ridiculously large number AND we know that it’s not that useful metric because those successful downloads don’t all turn into successful installations. In July 2008, successful downloads averaged about 33 million per day, and successful installs averaged around 18 million per day. That seems like a big drop, but consider that ActiveX was about 80% of our installs that month and when you visit a page that triggers the ActiveX install experience the installer is downloaded to the machine before the security warning dialog appears. The user might say “no thanks” to the security warning dialog, and refreshing the page or visiting another page that requires a newer version may download the installer again.

How do we monitor Flash Player download and installation numbers?

We have an internal dashboard application to track the general “health” of Flash Player downloads and installs, and it can chart the data daily, weekly, monthly, etc. It uses XML feeds of our server log data from Akamai, our current CDN. The dashboard is useful in helping us 1) to understand our traffic so we can try to optimize things like install success rate, and catch problems with our installers or CDN delivery in a matter of days, and 2) get a sense of where our penetration might be in the penetration study in the next wave. The penetration study is only run once a quarter, and it’s hard to wait three months to know where we’re at.

For “Player downloads” we count the attempted and successful downloads for all the player installers we post to the CDN (based on the related HTTP status codes), such as “swflash.cab” and “install_flash_player.exe” (note these numbers aren’t unique.) We also count the number of installs, which is the sum of requests for a small text file that a newly installed player requests the first time it is launched in the browser. That number is used as an estimate – we’ve had releases where the text file request wasn’t implemented or working on certain platforms, and since it is only requested once there are a number of reasons why it might not make it all the way to the server. The install number wasn’t ever intended to be a marketing point, although it was an exciting number for us to talk about when we realized that our install average was 8 million a day shortly after Flash Player 9 first launched. The daily average has gone up since then, most likely due to increasing penetration of broadband and improvements at the CDN. And it can spike depending on whether there is a hot new site that is sweeping the web, or dip if we’ve got a CDN or installer problem.

The point is, I know it can be confusing to hear about numbers like 8, 12, 14 or 25 million daily installs when there isn’t any context in which to interpret the meaning. We don’t yet have an internal “standard” for the install number that we are quoting as a company, such as “average daily installs for the past month” or “average daily installs since the last release”, etc. Not that it really matters. The intent behind stating these VERY BIG numbers is to say something about demand. That is a big reason why we have the penetration study, and have been tracking it since Flash Player 3. I’ve talked in the past about the general aspects of the penetration data we post, and how it may or may not apply when you get down to your particular audience. As with any statistics, you should understand the methodology behind the numbers. But the good thing about that number is it is something you or another third party like Forrester, can independently test or verify — which makes it the more interesting and important number for Flash Player.

Preparing for the upcoming April 2008 Flash Player 9 Security Update

We are planning to release a security update to Flash Player 9 in April 2008 that further mitigates previously disclosed vulnerabilities. Because these security enhancements may impact existing SWF content for some customers, we are giving advanced notice of these changes so that you have time to prepare before the player is released.

The information Adobe is providing right now is for developers, IT departments and Web administrators to better prepare for the next update to Flash Player. End users do not need to take actions at this time but should update to the latest player in April upon its release.

The Adobe Developer Connection article describes who and what types of content may be impacted, the changes, and what you should do immediately to implement any necessary changes to ensure a seamless transition when the updated Player launches.

For those of you whom the following situations apply, please read the Adobe Developer Connection article in detail:
* Use of sockets or XMLSockets, regardless of the domain the SWF is connecting to
* Use of addRequestHeader or URLRequest.requestHeaders in any network API call when sending or loading data cross-domain OR Provides access to content on remote domains as a web service provider
* Use of SWFs that are exported for Flash Player 7 (SWF7) or below that communicate with the hosting HTML by any means
* Use of ‘”javascript:'” through network APIs to communicate outside a SWF

Preparing for the April 2008 Flash Player 9 Security Update

For more information about Flash Player security, visit
Flash Player Security and Privacy page
Flash Player Security section of the Adobe Developer Connection

Going on vacation

I’ll be on vacation starting today through August, so my blog will be quiet through Spring/Summer. I’m going to turn off comments for now, since they’re moderated and I won’t be able to get to them.

To keep up to date, check:
http://weblogs.macromedia.com/mxna
Justin’s blog (Sr. Product Manager, Flash Player

Flash Player 9.0.115.0 for Solaris now availalbe

Flash Player 9.0.115.0 is now available on Adobe.com for the Solaris x86 and SPARC platforms. This update also addresses the issues in Security Bulletin APSB07-20 for Solaris. The one big known issue listed in the release notes is that the full screen hardware scaling feature is not supported on SPARC platforms at this time.

Thanks to everyone who tested and provided feedback on the Adobe Labs beta!

Flash Player 9 @ 95.7% in December study

It’s been up for a few weeks now, but the quarterly study results for December are now available. Note that this wave includes emerging markets, which are every other quarter.

The first row is how we present the data on the website. It tells you the percentage of people that can view a SWF of that version. The second row, is the % of the population with that player version installed (the delta between v and v+1).

December 2007 – Mature Markets v6 v7 v8 v9
% able to view content by SWF version 98.8% 98.8% 98.3% 95.7%
Install base by version 0.0% 0.5% 2.6% 95.7%
December 2007 – Emerging Markets v6 v7 v8 v9
% able to view content by SWF version 97.4% 97.3% 95.5% 93.3%
Install base by version 0.1% 1.8% 2.2% 93.3%

9.0.115.0 Debug versions are also available

Sorry I missed this in the original post! Debug players are available on the Support downloads page.

Yes, Linux debug and standalone players are also available.

Flash Player 9 Update 3 (9.0.115.0) now available

Flash Player 9 Update 3, with H.264 support, is now available from the download center.

This was a ginormous release for us, and for you. This release brings:
* New audio/video options with H.264/HE-AAC codec support
* Improved Performance through multi-core support for rendering, hardware scaling in full-screen, multi-threaded video decoding, a new algorithm for image scaling, and the Flash Player cache for local caching of common platform components to reduce SWF sizes and app loading times
* Support for full-screen mode for Linux
* MSAA Accessibility support for the plugin
* Mac OS X Leopard support
* And bug fixes

WHEW!

Resources
* Take a look at our updated product page! We’ve got the new logo, an updated look and feel, and an updated datasheet. The feature demo has also been updated to include an H.264 video clip and full screen demo.
* Press Release
* Release Notes
* Check the Dev Center for new articles and updates
* Check the support center for new Technotes

Mac update for Moviestar on Adobe Labs to fix FileReference issue

We updated the Mac release candidate on Adobe Labs last night so that Leopard users who are running into the FileReference problem have a reasonable workaround for this issue. This is still a release candidate and not the final release, but we didn’t want this functionality to be broken for Leopard users between now and release.

Adobe products and Leopard support

Adobe has posted an FAQ about Leopard support for CS products.

Yes, Flash Player 9 is Leopard-compatible and we will continue to work with Apple on any outstanding issues. We’re working on a player specific technote to call out known issues, such as the one with FileReference upload/download which will be fixed in the upcoming Moviestar release.

Video of Astro in Day 1 MAX 2007 keynote

If you missed the keynote, or weren’t able to make it to Chicago for MAX this year, Aral Balkan has a video clip of us presenting a few of the Astro features on his blog.

Aral’s blog on the Astro keynote

I am very pleased with how the demos came through, and we have a lot of people to thank for pulling them together so that we could show them to you:
* Creating assets and generally busting his a** to get the demos together: Justin Everett-Church, Sr. Product Manager for Flash Player!!!
* Text demo of bidi/complex scripts: Jerry Hall, Eric Muller, Sairus Patel in Core Tech. Core Tech is working closely with our team on the layout engine. We are talking about some super text gurus!
* Adobe Edge: Robin Briggs, who is leading the text component library engineering effort
* 3D: Chris Nuuja, Flash Player engineering, for getting us a build with the new 3D APIs (while we’re working on Moviestar)
* Kevin Goldsmith, Bob Archer, and Elba Sobrino (and probably more from the Adobe Image Foundation team) for their awesome work on the Hydra language, the toolkit, sample filters and getting it up on Adobe Labs today