Flash is not substance


I rarely go into rants in my blog, but I’ve been listening to the June 3rd podcast from the Gillmor Gang and I guess I’m going to have to make an exception. The ‘gang’ was going into a lot of arcane details about what rich standards will take over the web. I had to consult Wikipedia for many of the esoteric topics like Ajax (not the detergent) and Infopath. To make matters worse, there was definitely a kind of “who’s the smartest man in the room” contest going on among the guests. One of the guests (Jon Udell) was disagreeing with the others in a rather condescending manner and ending every sentence with the word “Right?”, not waiting for any reply, just continuing to monopolize the conversation while seeming to alienate the others. At one point the Steve Gillmor said that he caused the rest of the guests to ‘glaze over’, which was pretty funny because I was glazed over at that point too.

I guess the thing that amazed me most was that they were talking about Adobe in the sense that it had the potential to influence ‘rich web services’ because of their recent acquisition of Macromedia’s Flash technology for $3.4 billion.

A better name for a Macromedia’s “Flash” could not have been selected if they had employed all the consultants in the world. I’m reminded of the expression, “All flash and no substance” and that describes that technology perfectly. The only button I look for on a website that uses flash is the ‘Skip Intro’ button, and if I can’t find one, I leave immediately. How in the world does an inane animation improve someone’s ability to interact with your website? I consider it the height of arrogance to waste my time with a ridiculous animation that has absolutely no point other than to delay me in getting information. It seems that gimmicky companies like to use it, perhaps to cover up the fact that they have no substance worth mentioning. The only legitmate use I’ve seen for flash is to make silly little animations that waste time, both in the creation and in the viewing. I’m guessing that each minute of a Flash animation takes many, many hours to produce, but that pales in comparison to the time wasted while thousands suffer through it if it’s part of your company’s home page. But to think that owning Flash technology will help secure some kind of prominent position in the next generation rich web standards is pure nonsense. Adding ActionScript to Flash does little to more than JavaScript already did for handling forms and why would anyone want to learn yet another scripting language for the web, particularly one that requires a proprietary player that has to be downloaded before the webpage will display?

I will admit that listening to the Gillmor Gang is a much more educational experience than most of the other podcasts out there, even the other tech podcasts, and Jon Udell is a genius, but they really need to work on the guests’ interaction skills to make it more enjoyable.