Chrome finally kills Flash - and now we wait

Created on September 15, 2015.

A colleague of mine was testing some placements recently on the latest version of Chrome, and he saw something which caught us off-guard:

Flash paused in Chrome

No, that play button isn't part of the ad - Chrome has paused the Flash content to:

  • Increase page load speed
  • Increase portable device battery life
  • Prevent user-experience degradation

Chrome started blocking Flash content in early September, but it's hard to gauge when the change will be rolled out to most users across different operating systems. Sitting on my Ubuntu box I'm still seeing Flash ads play fine in the 'latest' version of Chrome.

Personally I'm happy to see Flash go, as I agree with every point Google has raised in its push to drop support for the software. I won't miss Flash, but I feel that the world of advertising has a long way to go before it's completely past the deprecated platform. The massive drop in support for Flash content should hit online advertising quite hard, given that the vast majority of placements are still Flash.

In August, online advertising trade body the Interactive Advertising Bureau encouraged marketers to migrate from Flash to HTML5 with updated “Creative Guidelines.”

It's all well and good that everyone knows about the necessary transition, but how long will it take to push enough HTML5 content to make up for the drop in Flash support?

As Chrome changed it's Flash handling behaviour on September 1st, the movement towards a Flash-free world has started. Due to the fact that Chrome auto-updates, the general population should start seeing the effects immediately, so the drop-off in functional ads and other widgets (not to mention entire Flash sites) should be very apparent.

Some movers like Brightcove are playing down the situation - calmly suggesting that content creators are migrating to HTML5:

For now, Flash is still the default for desktop ads since the majority of ads are still provided by ad servers in Flash, but as this balance shifts, we’ll be changing the player’s default.

Amazon had earlier already banned Flash ads on their site, stating:

Beginning September 1, 2015, Amazon no longer accepts Flash ads on, AAP, and various IAB standard placements across owned and operated domains.

This fantastic post covers a lot of what I've been discussing at work recently, and they've mentioned some of potential impacts I've been circling around:

With Chrome being the preferred browser and having 37% to 48% share of the browser market (depending on the source), that’s a significant amount of ad impressions that will be wasted, though we’ll still be charged for the ad impression and ad serving cost.

Klick mentions Firefox having a 10-16% market share on top of that, making it an approximate minimum of 47% of browsers that would no longer support the Flash ads originally being served to them. They hit the nail on the head with their departing message, too:

Overall, we see this update to Chrome as an improvement to user experience and a positive push to standardize ad formats that can run across all devices.

So with mobile ad expenditure increasing and desktop browsers phasing out ancient technologies, we should expect to see a lot less of Flash in the very near future, especially in terms of advertising. While the news and updates from advertising houses seems positive and hopeful, the current fill I see daily hasn't changed so much in terms of format - Now we play the waiting game.

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