Simon Willison’s Weblog


Another rant about Flash

23rd June 2003

Michael Pick has kicked off an interesting discussion on the usefulness of Flash, which is continued on mezzoblue. The key idea under discussion is that while Flash has its uses it remains a fundamentally bad choice for serving up text based content. I couldn’t agree more. It’s nice to see that some Flash designers think the same way.

That said, a discussion with friends at Uni a while back made me reconsider my position on Flash to a certain extent. I was arguing that full Flash-based sites practically always make textual content slower and/or harder to access, and (with the notable exceptions of online cartoons and interactive graphical information) are thus a bad choice for practically any site containing textual information. I was then confronted with something I hadn’t really considered: some people use the internet to look at pretty things and be entertained rather than just to find information. Over the past few years I have become reliant on the internet as a tool for finding information, so the idea of information being “hidden” behind a layer of eye candy lost its appeal a long time ago. I had never really considered that there are many people who log on to the ’net for half an hour every few evenings with the soul aim of entertainment rather than information retrieval.

With that in mind, maybe the X2 Movie site wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was. It was just aimed at a completely different audience.

This does nothing to change my overall opinion of Flash as a tool for serving textual content. I’ll believe Flash is a good choice for textual content when I can access that content using Lynx.

N.B. An issue I haven’t touched upon at all is Flash as a tool for serving up “Rich Media Applications”, aka web-based GUIs that provide proper interaction as opposed to the current click-wait-reload cycle provided by HTML forms. I agree that Flash has huge potential here, although I have yet to see an application that really uses this capability to an advantage over more accessible HTML. And I won’t believe Flash is truly accessible until I can use Flash based web apps from a command line. I’m hard to please like that.

This is Another rant about Flash by Simon Willison, posted on 23rd June 2003.

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