Over the past few weeks, the debate about the future of Adobe Flash has been hotting up, as many announce that the reign of Flash is well and truly over. This is because some major online players have made big announcements about Flash display ads that took effect on September 1, 2015. We’ve rounded up some of the most important recent developments in the state of Flash, and what it means for online display advertisers.
The steady decline of Flash
Flash has been the standard for online animated and rich media ads for a long time. Flash has also apparently been dead for a long while too, or at lease people have been discussing the decline of Flash for a long time now.
However, while the argument to kill Flash and move towards HTML5 has been gaining steam over the past couple of years, there hasn’t yet been a mass migration to HTML5. Namely because scalable HTML5 ad production is impossible without the right tools, and (other than the rise of mobile devices) there has been nothing forcing advertisers to move to HTML5.
But now that’s changing.
Big, no HUGE players in the world of online are saying goodbye to Flash, and this time it is the final goodbye. Google, Firefox, Amazon and more are now implementing measures that will put an end to Flash. Flash is dead, and this time everyone means it.
Why is Flash dying?
Flash isn’t dying simply because the times are changing; Flash is dying for legitimate reasons, namely security. As the Guardian describes it, Flash has more security holes than Swiss Cheese. This is evident in the fact that Adobe has to fix five bugs in Flash per week. Let’s not forget to mention that Flash impacts your browser’s performance negatively.
Such issues are encouraging users and brands to start turning off Flash in their browsers. Flash hasn’t worked on iOS and Android devices for a while now, and desktop browser shut down is the next step in ensuring a better experience for users.
Google Chrome now (since September 1, 2015) automatically pauses Flash elements that are not essential to the web page; this includes some animated and interactive Flash ads! Therefore, if you don’t want you ads to be paused by Google Chrome, it’s time rethink your ads.
While this update doesn’t mean that all Flash ads are automatically paused in Chrome, this is a huge step in the process of moving away from Flash. For many advertisers, their ads won’t be affected by this update (Jan Ozer has done a great job in explaining the nitty-gritty of this update). However, there is nothing to say that your Flash ads won’t be Google’s next target.
Mozilla Firefox now blocks older versions Flash by default. This means that everything in Flash is automatically paused, and when you try to use Flash, you’ll get a notification on your screen notifying you of this.
However, by downloading the latest versions of Flash player, uses will not automatically experience this block. But this means that advertisers using Flash will have to rely on Firefox users to update their plugin, and hoping that Mozilla won’t block Flash again. This isn’t a solid foundation to build your online banner advertising strategy. Therefore, it might be time to start thinking about your alternatives before your business is affected by such changes.
The 1st of September also marked the day that Amazon stopped showing Flash display ads on their websites. Amazon’s reason for the move was clearly influenced by other big Internet players as shown in this statement from the company:
This is driven by recent browser setting updates from Google Chrome, and existing browser settings from Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari, that limits Flash content displayed on web pages
As Amazon’s decision has been influenced by what others in the industry are doing (as well as security threats), so, it is likely that we will also see others following suit shortly.
It might also be worth highlighting a Tweet posted by Facebook’s chief security officer, that I think sums up the thoughts of many in the industry:
It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day.
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos)
Final thoughts: Make the move to HTML5 before it’s too late
The reality is that fewer people will see your Flash online display ads as these changes take place, and it’s reasonable to expect even more Flash-blocking changes to come into effect too.
Therefore, it is time for online marketers to start actively taking steps towards transitioning ad production to HTML5. While a full Flash kill-off is perhaps a year away now is the time to make the move as to avoid being left behind. Transitioning from Flash to HTML5 ad production doesn’t have to be difficult either, implementing the right tools will make the transition possible.