Suppose you want to use Flash on your website. I think this is a bad idea, but I accept that some are going to ignore my wise advice and do it anyhow. If you do this and you’re not careful, you can make it absolutely impossible for some people to see your show.

Consider for example thesixtyone, a nice sort-of-game-structured music site that I use for background when I’m working on something that’s not particularly taxing. It’s lively and well-designed and dynamic and an example of intelligent and graceful Ajax. Only it wouldn’t work for me when I first visited it.

The reason is that it uses Flash to play its music. On both Camino and Safari, like many other people I use a Flash blocker; this disables Flash by default and shows me some sort of graphic indicating that there’s Flash there if I want to click on it. The number of irritating squirmy lame-ass ads that I never have to look at is remarkable; and when I hit YouTube or something like that, I click and watch.

On thesixtyone, they’d hidden their Flash player, made it invisible somehow, so there was nowhere to click to make the music go. Don’t do that!



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From: Michael Weisman (Mar 11 2010, at 16:07)

ClickToFlash for Safari has a whitelist. Also has an option to automatically load "invisible flash". One of those might do the trick for you.

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From: Mark (Mar 11 2010, at 17:02)

ClickToFlash also has a setting to allow tiny (less than 8x8px) Flash, for exactly this scenario. If that's enabled but the site is still not working, you should pester them to make their hidden Flash player smaller.

FlashBlock for Chrom(e|ium) also has a per-domain whitelist. Press Ctrl+Shift+F to whitelist the current domain.

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From: Shane Curcuru (Mar 11 2010, at 17:43)

Excellent point. Getting back to fundamentals, the real point is: it's all about the user. It's a hard lesson to learn, since being self-aware means you're first aware of yourself - not others. But in designing websites (or most products), you'll do the best if you design it for others.

One of my pet peeves is small businesses who have flash-only sites. A local restaurant (one of the Todd English properties) has this: a complete website world for multiple cuisines and cities and what-not - all in Flash. Last time I looked, there was *zero* non-Flash content. Lynx users wouldn't have even been able to find the phone number for the restaurant to make a reservation! Just plain dumb.

I see plenty of sites that have oddly shaped or positioned flash bits. Some are obviously ads, but some aren't so obvious what they do, so sometimes I wonder what I'm missing.

(I'm glad your wifely anti-spam questions says "generally", too. 8-)

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From: John Cowan (Mar 11 2010, at 18:51)

Flash is still the only portable way to embed video -- and especially audio -- into Web pages. There really is no other way to be sure that your whole audience can hear an audio clip, because all other formats are problematic in one way or another.

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From: Paul Downey (Mar 11 2010, at 23:43)

It's a trend for canny HTML sites to use Flash as a device driver to fill in missing browser features such as video, audio, cut and paste and accessing the Webcam. Of course once browsers support the devices API, then it's goodbye Flash all together. Yay!

In the meantime, as other noted, clicktoflash has whitelist and Safari > ClickToFlash > Load Invisible Flash

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From: JulesLt (Mar 12 2010, at 01:12)

Is there a viable alternative that they could have used?

You could accept that most people have browsers with an MP3 capable plug-in. More of a struggle if you need to offer streaming media - and unlike Flash audio players, there doesn't seem to be a nice drop-in bit of JavaScript for site developers to use.

And that's the reality - most web developers are capable of using a script that will use HTML5 video, or fall back to Flash on older browsers. Fewer are capable of developing it.

Streaming media is even more problematic (and a lot of audio sites are forced down the streaming route for licensing reasons). Doesn't seem to be any support for streaming audio in HTML 5 audio tags yet, and I am sure politics will keep it that way.

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From: carlos (Mar 12 2010, at 03:29)

Shane Curcuru wrote "I see plenty of sites that have oddly shaped or positioned flash bits."

Flash is capable of storing cookies and will do this even if you disable cookies in your browser. Apparently useless bits of flash on a page are often used for this purpose.

So if you don't want Flash cookies it isn't a good idea to allow tiny flash objects to run automatically.

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From: Rick (Mar 12 2010, at 03:29)

@Paul - the day when all browsers support what Flash supports today, we'll also have flying cars, a working version of the flux capacitor, and an open Apple phone platform...

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From: Philippe (Mar 12 2010, at 07:20)

In Camino, the build-in Flashblock will always show the placeholder (minimum size: 32px by 32px), no matter how small the Flash movie. Of course if the site has placed the Flash thingie off-screen, you won't be able to click on it.

Camino > Preferences > WebFeatures, you can whitelist the site if you feel the need to (I'm sure you already knew this ;-)).

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March 11, 2010
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