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.

11 Responses to More like nine months to “Upgrade the Web”

  1. Bob says:

    Well hey, maybe if your flash software wasnt a pile of [jd sez: sexist and misspelled profanity deleted] then it wouldnt be such an issue?
    [jd sez: I’m keeping this in, even though it doesn’t contain much explicit information, because it provides abundant implicit information about the people who are trying to enlighten us.]

  2. Jep says:

    Great! Love the post. (and yes, because I love Flash 😉 )
    And also because all the ‘bad’ things they say about Flash and that HTML5 is so much better. (which it isn’t ofcourse)

  3. JP says:

    I believe the poster above is referring to the common view that Flash pages and ad banners often bring browsers to a crawl. [jd sez: Sidetopic with unsubstantiated assertions, intended to diverge conversation… hallmark of an anonymous commenter. 😉 ] If Adobe wants to see Flash live a long life past 2010, they need to address this on several fronts.
    1. More CPU and PGU efficiency. (Adobe needs to drop some serious coin on this one! Not just for mobile players, either!)
    2. Ways to educate help developers write their code and discourage bloated swf files.
    3. Consumer tools and options to disable or limit abusive swf movies.
    4. Make Flash as open and transparent as possible.
    And this all needs to be done yesterday. The writing is almost completely on the wall regarding Flash’s long-term future.
    Good luck, Adobe team!
    [jd sez: Agreed on the need for constant improvement. But browser stability is a larger task than Flash alone can solve.]

  4. Asa Dotzler says:

    j/d, why wouldn’t Adobe “get away with” running update checks more than once a month? Every other piece of web-connected software I know of checks more frequently than that. Flash, expecially given it’s consistent instability and regular flow of security bugs, should really be able to fetch an update sooner.

  5. Asa Dotzler says:

    [jd sez: Agreed on the need for constant improvement. But browser stability is a larger task than Flash alone can solve.]
    jd, Flash is the number one cause of crashes in Firefox and I’d wager that it’s the same for most other browsers too.
    Browser stability is certainly a larger task than Flash alone can solve, but Flash stability would do more than any other single improvement to increase browser stability.

  6. John Dowdell says:

    Hi Asa, it’s hard to predict hypotheticals, but it’s easy for me to visualize headlines of “Why does Flash phone home every day?” were it to act the same.
    For instance, we’re already accused of things like “consistent instability and regular flow of security bugs”, even though Flashblock doesn’t prevent crashing and instability, and the last big security issue for Flash was to prevent browsers from being manipulated to hide its cam/mic permissions. Double standards, but that’s the way it is.
    But enough of that one small line, what is it that you think really “Upgrades the Web”…? 😀

  7. Asa Dotzler says:

    jd/adobe, you probably don’t really want to know what I think. But, since you asked.
    My personal opinion is that you and anyone else that’s built a career on Flash should start figuring out what you’re going to do next. It won’t happen immediately, but just a few years of browsers actually competing is going to make your world a lot smaller and the Open Web’s world a lot larger. You might want to get an early start and begin polishing up the resume sooner rather than later.
    That’s what I think.

  8. Asa Dotzler says:

    Oh, and I forgot one other thing I think. I think Adobe should get to some serious fixing of Flash stability issues. You all are responsible for the largest stability failure point on the Web and it’s about time you took responsibility for that.
    As Oscar Rogers says on SNL, “Fix IT!”

  9. Toby says:

    [Summary: This person found Player’s configurable “Updates” preference, then has opinions about Flash, not much about “Upgrade the Web”.]
    In reference to “Why does Flash phone home every day?” and more frequent update checks.
    It seems just a little obvious that one way around both these problems would be to default to a happy medium of say 2 week checks and in the preferences allow the user to specify how often if ever they wish to check for updates. After researching a little I found my version of flash actually does allow me to do this, if i right click on a movie, then click on the correct tab, then click “advanced” then it brings up a help file, in it I can click a list of links (on a HTML page in my browser) about the settings manager, after a few clicks there’s an image that looks like an example image but actually below it in text that is extremely light grey on white it says that this image actually is the real settings manager. Once I got to this point it was fairly easy to change my auto updates. The usability team need about as much help as the average flash developer.
    This platform has huge potential. As a development platform however it has some unintuitive things about it and can sometimes clearly have a mind of its own.
    As a user platform, it allows users to experience truly awesome media content (when its not crashing the browser) and adds powerful features to sites some of which cannot otherwise be implemented, however its too commonly an excuse to show off, as a result the majority of products implemented flash are unusable (in terms of UI), not accessible, intolerably slow… As a result I think the “I want to look cool before I know what I’m doing” audience of developer that flash typically attracts is what’s killing the platform as a user experience.
    Overall, I both love and hate Flash from both sides of it, but considering that the majority of what’s good for real world use in flash can be done AJAX style for free, without crashing the browser, with around 200% upward increase in load speed, standards compliant, with much better SEO… really I’m not sure who will really use it in a few years apart from the designers who wanna look cool without learning and a niche market making video intensive products that need to be seamlessly integrated…but then there are a few other good options for that.

  10. Toby says:

    Quote: “[Summary: This person found Player’s configurable “Updates” preference, then has opinions about Flash, not much about “Upgrade the Web”.]”
    The configurable updates seemed to be a bit of an argument on the thread as something that appeared to not exist in that people were complaining about the upgrade options but could change them if they could work out how.
    The upgrade the web opinions embeded in my comment could be summarized (in order of appearance) as :
    1. Flash has the potential to be a massive upgrade to the web experience but due to continual abuse it feels like a downgrade which is tolerated for a rare collection of cases (such as google -specifically youtube) that make excellent use of the product.
    2. Flash previously was a massive upgrade to the web experience, but due to moves towards web 2.0 design concepts and ironed out browser issues with these in the last few years the majority of true benefits of flash have been wiped out. The notion of flash upgrading the web as stated seems to be very past tense in a product that is very cutting edge marketed.
    3. Building on the previous point although not explicitly stated I was implying that browsers have made huge efforts to upgrade the web experience. To add to that I’d agree that firefox has been responsible for quite allot of that, without firefox’s competition microsoft probably wouldn’t have implemented half the stuff that has allowed the web to progress in terms of user experience. Over and above that some of the features in Safari 4 especially in javascript and CSS have excellent potential if other browsers follow suit.
    The less relevant stuff to the upgrading the web points were flying round my mind after reading through other articles in this blog(those relative to HTML5) and seemed to find there way in there, I was a bit grumpy and unfocused after the auto-upgrade experience.
    It will be interesting to see how the browser market changes when IE isn’t built-in to windows and they actually have to work to keep some kind of share I think we might then see some real upgrades maybe even a flash player which works well on other browsers.

  11. Benjamin says:

    I am installing the adobe flash player to listen to ESPN and Fox Business on my Firefox browser. It is not working. I have had this issue before. It has been downloaded yet these websites still only work for Int Exp. Frustrating and pathetic. Can someone please help?
    [jd sez: If you can’t view any sites’ Flash in that browser, and if you’re not running Flashblock or NoScript or some other blocker, then it’s likely your installation is fouled. Use the uninstaller to clean it out and reinstall, as the search phrase “troubleshoot flash player” recommends.]