Is there a single Mac utility that has incurred more wrath, hatred, and negative publicity than Adobe’s Flash Player?
Apple refuses to put Flash on the iPhone or iPad due to well known performance issues. CEO Steve Jobs says Flash accounts for more Safari browser crashes than anything else. Adobe’s response hasn’t helped the Flash cause for Mac users. What about the latest version of Flash?
The Ubiquitous Flash Plugin Player
Flash is the de facto standard to display video on web sites. Why? Because there is no HTML standard for embedding video into web pages. Flash, for better or worse, runs in all major web browsers, Mac or Windows.
Windows Media Video and Apple’s QuickTime are distant in second and third place.
Simply put, Flash is around to do what web standards have not been able to do—mix animation, audio, video, and interactivity into cross platform web pages. For both Mac and Windows users, Flash apps, audio, video, ads, and animation are viewed through a browser plugin.
Let The Pain Begin
As a plugin, Flash Player has had performance issues in Mac browsers for years; far more so than on Windows browsers. Flash is a CPU hog. Flash crashes easily. The abundance of Flash videos and advertisements can overwhelm a Mac’s browser.
Adobe’s most recent answer is Flash Player 10.1, a much improved plugin designed to improve performance in Macs, Windows PCs, Linux, Solaris, and a number of mobile devices, not including Apple’s iPad and iPhone.
What does Adobe think of the new Flash Player?
The consistent Flash Player browser-based runtime is the most productive way to deliver content to users across operating systems and devices.
That’s advertising and marketing speak for “Despite what Apple says, we’re still numero uno.” Flash for Mac users has improved. Has it improved enough? Does Flash still cause Mac users pain?
I’m not fond of Flash. I’m happy that Apple doesn’t allow Flash to run on the iPhone or iPad. For mobile devices, there are better solutions on the way, including HTML5. Even YoutTube videos don’t require Flash. Not many mobile device users miss Flash videos, and few of us miss Flash advertisements.
That said, Flash 10.1 is an improvement. Better overall performance—lower CPU usage in Safari and other Mac browsers, and fewer crashes.
Flash Problems, 1, 2 & 3
For Mac users, Flash problems fall into three distinct areas. Flash itself. Flash ubiquity. And web standards.
First, despite more computing horsepower than ever before, Flash is a resource hog on Macs and can bring the fastest iMac or MacBook to a crawl just displaying a handful of web sites.
Second, Flash is everywhere. It’s the de fact video standard and the web is crawling with Flash videos. The web is also crawling with advertisements; too many of which use Flash for animation.
Outside of those two areas, I don’t remember the last time I ran into a web site that was built wholly on Flash animation. They’re there. Game sites. Multi-media sites. But those are the vast minority.
Finally, web standards for video embedding don’t exist, and the vacuum was filled by Flash.
HTML5 seeks to overcome that gap by providing audio and video tags (and some animation features) which would negate the need for browser plugin architecture like Flash.
Unfortunately, HTML5 isn’t as ubiquitous as Flash video, and there’s still no agreement between major browser makers on which video format should rule. For Mac users, Flash stays. For now.
Is Flash 10.1 worth a look? Caveat emptor. My experience is that it’s far more stable than previous versions, less likely to crash, and uses less Mac CPU than previous versions. Some beta versions even have hardware acceleration for some Mac models.
Adobe appears to be working diligently to provide an improved Flash Player for Mac users and mobile device users. I think 10.1 is the best Flash Player yet. Despite the improvements, is it too little, too late?
I hope so.