More like nine months to “Upgrade the Web”

Summary: It may take 35 days to upgrade Firefox’s minority share, but to “Upgrade the Web” in an open way, across all browser choices, takes more like nine months.

Flash’s success paints a target on its back. A few years ago Microsoft started supporting the idea of rich-media plugins, and this year Apple & Google are trying to get “standards” blessing of their own controlled runtimes, which in some cases specifically exclude cross-browser renderers. It’s great to have them join in, but many of the marketing claims are recycled from Macromedia.

Last year at MAX Kevin Lynch spoke of how Adobe Flash Player is the only technology which can essentially “upgrade the web” in under a year:

So on the client, of course we’ve been doing some really great innovation with Flash Player 10. It’s already been released. It’s being adopted broadly and it’s reaching, already with Flash Player, pretty much all the computers on the Web today. The situation we’re in is pretty amazing because we can actually update that software now in less than a year, in about nine months, we can actually upgrade the capabilites on the Web and induce new capabilities for everyone who are using these applications interacting with content. What this means for you is that we can innovate at a much faster rate. We can deploy new technologies, like Pixel Bender or new 3D effects or a faster scripting engine. We can get that out to everyone on the Web in a consistent way. And you can start taking advantage of it very quickly.”

You’ve seen this “Upgrading the Web” theme in presentations since then. The wide and diverse ecology around SWF creates a cycle where the entire world upgrades their machines quickly… 75% consumer support in five months, and up towards the “ubiquity” area of 90% consumer support in nine. “Upgrading the Web” is what happens with each new Flash generation.

Last year’s Firefox launch had the “Guinness Records for Most Downloads in 24 hours!” campaign (ignoring how daily downloads of Adobe Flash Player trump that for the minority browser), and this year the marketing slogan seems to be “Upgrading the Web in 35 Days!” [Tristan Nitot, Chris Blizzard, more undoubtedly to come].

The difference is, of course, that most people use Microsoft browsers… about twice as many as all other browser brands combined. Firefox reaches only a small minority of people on the web… about as many as still use IE6, released back in 2001. But Flash reaches nearly everyone.

Firefox does achieve a rapid upgrade rate among its base, because it “calls home” every day. Flash Player is set by default to check for updates only once a month. They get away with it; we can’t.

Flash’s success paints a target on its back. Flash breaks silos, and this threatens entrenched interests. Copying features and going for low-hanging fruit makes sense. But swiping slogans like “Most Downloaded Software!” or “Upgrade the Web!” seems as weird as going on about Rich Interactive Applications.

Nothing wrong with being inspired by Flash, but it’s a little strange to be so bipolar about it.