Most of you will have seen the ‘What is a browser?’ video where Google take to the streets of New York to see how many passers-by actually know what a web browser is. Even though they all seemed to surf the web regularly, only 8% of them knew what a web browser actually was. Well the video sparked an interesting conversation in the office between myself and a friend.
One question in particular came out from the conversation: Do people actually know what Flash is?
It would be really interesting to see a similar video asking this question to random folk. I suspect the results would be much worse than the miserable 8% from the Google video. Many of my friends and relatives know that I’m a Flash developer, but whenever I try explaining to them what Flash is their eyes glaze over, with some even seeming to slip into a semi-vegetative state.
So is this really a problem? Well it shouldn’t be. Your average user should just be able to enjoy browsing the web without caring about what technologies are being used to render the content. Unfortunately with the increasing penetration of the iPhone and the imminent release of the iPad looming, Adobe could be in trouble.
Most iPhone users, and I’d imagine this will be the case for those with iPads too, will probably get by with a stunted web experience. iPhone users have after all been making do with a Flash-less web for some time now and I suspect that most of them simply shrug their shoulders and move on when they stumble upon a Flash-based site.
If people don’t know what Flash is or even care then how are phone and tablet manufacturers going to convince them to purchase their Flash-enabled devices over Apple’s products? Other than geeks, who’s going to buy an Android phone because it says on the box that it supports Flash? Claiming that Flash-enabled devices will allow users to browser ‘the complete web’ isn’t going to do much good either, since Joe Public already mistakenly believe that the iPhone and iPad can already do this.
For me it’s difficult to see round this problem. Perhaps the trick is not to mention Flash at all, instead focusing marketing on popular Flash sites that will only be available to these Flash 10.1 enabled devices. Or maybe Adobe are just hoping that the handsets they’re targeting will eventually grab a large enough market share giving Flash the mobile penetration it needs to be relevant.
My main concern however is the time this will take. The longer iPhone and iPad dominate in their spaces, the more websites will drop Flash in order to cater for the ever increasing number of users who have Apple devices.
I’m extremely excited by the prospect of seeing Flash on mobile but there is an ever decreasing window of opportunity to get Flash 10.1 out there. Let’s hope that Adobe and its many partners manage to get Flash on enough devices before a tipping point is reached and websites stop using it.