Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another reason to hate Flash

There's a lot to hate about Flash video. And yes, I'm aware of the irony of saying this when I myself put Flash videos on my blog. If YouTube would use a decent format, I'd be onto it so fast your head would spin.

It's not a fully open standard, making it near impossible for anyone to create Flash applications that don't depend on Adobe. There are a zillion movie players for .avi, .mpg, and even a handful for .mov, there's only one player for Flash .swf applications. (In fairness, mplayer can, sometimes, play .flv videos. mplayer is awesome!) That's a warning sign of data obsolescence.

Specifications for the Flash formats are only released to developers on the condition that they don't create Flash players. Flash videos contain executable code, which is a serious security hole: it's only a matter of time before somebody creates a virus which runs through Flash, even on Linux. Most Flash applications are poorly written, with terrible user interfaces and buggy implementations: Flash sites frequently lock up my browser. You can't index or search Flash sites, or copy text out of them, and if you are blind and use a screen-reader, web designers who use Flash are giving you a big F-U. And if you're a movie creator, why on Earth would you be happy with the crappy, low resolution, compression-artifact-filled ugliness that is the typical .flv file?

I could go on, but I'll just link to one more reason to avoid Flash if possible: Adobe is now adding Digital Restrictions Management software to the format.

Finally, there's a classic suite of arguments against DRM that will be as true for online video as they were for music. DRM doesn't move additional product. DRM is grief for honest end-users. And there's no reason to imagine that new DRM systems will stop copyright infringement any more effectively than previous systems.


Will said...

Let's not forget flash player now supports H.264 and there are plenty of sites out there showcasing much higher quality videos than those seen on youtube.

italiaotoko said...

The future of Flash is controversial, in the age of open source and collaborative development, a platform so popular like flash should be open and made available for use and improvement by the community.
This is one the biggest limit of a multimedia giant that risks to fall badly if doesn't cope with the reality of web trends and standards.
Here my thoughts on the topic - from an enthusiast flash designer that has to cope with this reality:

Jonon said...

I hate the processing overhead required.

If its open stadards you wantm, That's why MPEGII is still the best because of its complex coding/simple decoding which means it is processor light. Apart from that most of the other standards are procesor heavy on the decoder side. However, wmv is not. But it is not open stadard. Therefore when it comes to movies, I dont' care about the "open debate". I care for decoding processor performance and bandwidth efficiency. Therefore, I use wmv.

Anonymous said...

I agree. wmv is the best standard for movie media via the web, based on Murphy's law (you cant please all the people all the time). H.264 is still very processor heavy on the decoding side and is hardly "open". Xvid/divx are both also prosessor heavy as compared to MPEG II. But Flash is just hideous and god knows why You Tube chose it, presumabably because at the time they were a start-up venture with bugger all cash, and needed to appeal to everyone and sundry including minorty Macheads.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered the environmental impact of running flash movies -- all that extra wattage as the processors burn so hot? Maybe we should form a green coalition to ban Flash vidoes (FLVs) from websites in order to save on CO2 emmission?

Vlad the Impala said...

Thanks guys for the comments. I must say your experience with wmv has been very different from mine: I found the quality to be really crappy, and I never noticed that decoding was any faster than for (say) xvid. If there was a difference, it was not a difference I could notice.