Adobe: Will Flash Ever Work?

Recent problems force author to consider why Flash is still so buggy.

After a couple of bad experiences with Flash this past week, I'm almost beginning to think that Steve Jobs might have had a point.

Then I slap myself.

Still, it's rather irksome to have Flash ads and Flash-based applications pop up on my screen and then crash spectacularly or (my personal favorite) bring my dual-core system grinding to a slow, agonizing halt.

Sure, I can get Flash blockers, (Flashblock being my preferred Firefox add-on), but there are some Flash apps I like to have available (notably Rhapsody's Flash client, since they haven't ported their native client to Linux yet). Plus, I have a little moral ambivalence about blocking ads since indirectly they fund my income as a writer. It's that whole bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you thing.

So my question then becomes, why can't Flash be fixed?

Here's the thing: I am not sure where the problem really lies. A lot of people think that it's the Flash format itself. Others point at the browser plug-ins. And I've heard arguments about poorly constructed Flash presentations/applications.

It seems to be a combination of all of the above, as best as my experience tells me. The first two problems fall squarely on Adobe's shoulders. Adobe dictates how the format works, and my plug-in comes straight from Adobe. Sometimes crashes happen when Adobe is the content provider, too--something I discovered just this morning when researching for this post:

Adobe plug-in crash, on Adobe site
I can't make irony like this up. From a June 26 visit to TV.Adobe.com.

So, which is it, Adobe? Bad video? Bad plug-in? Or bad format altogether?

Defenders of Adobe will likely tell me that it's my choice of the Linux operating system. And, yeah, I could see that, if I didn't see similar problems on Windows 7. I could also get knocked for the browser, but really, who is really going to point to Firefox as unstable in this day and age?

Now, I get that Flash isn't perfect. I really do. Nothing is. But I have concerns that after 10 major versions of the Flash Player, there's still crashing going on. Over what, video? Animated ads? Forgive an ignorant question, but how many more innovative features does Adobe have to jam into their player to "improve" it? Can't resources be dedicated to fixing old problems rather than add new features?

The open source advocate in me would argue that this is the problem you get when code is held so closely for such a widely used format. And that HTML5, when it is (finally) implemented as a standard, will provide a real alternative to Flash and we won't have to worry about it much longer.

Those are arguments for down the road. Right now, I'd just like to see Flash consistently work, before getting into discussions about licenses and standards, because it seems to be the best we have to work with, for now.

Because if this is the best, we're in trouble.

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