On July 25th Adobe announced that Flash will reach its end-of-life by the end of 2020 effectively stopping development, support and distribution of Flash Player.
Why is this happening?
In the late nineties and early two thousands Adobe Flash (then Macromedia Flash) gained immense popularity. It provided means of creating very rich internet applications and games. It was also the main way of embedding video and audio content on the webpages. Unfortunately, since its very beginnings flash was riddled with issues which over time contributed to its demise:
- Accessibility – It causes huge problems for screen readers. It also made it difficult to adjust text zoom levels for better readability.
- SEO – Content implemented using Flash would often not get indexed without alternative text. This method was very limiting for the on-page optimization.
- Security – Adobe Flash has been struggling with security issues. Over the years various security experts and research recommended against installing Flash. Large companies such Facebook and Apple warned against using flash all together. Finally, major browsers blocked earlier versions of Flash player.
- Usability – Users include Flash on web pages using object embedding but when this option is blocked by a browser it can break page layout and functionality. Flash requires plugin download and installation. Furthermore Flash does not work well with responsive design. Finally, it is not mobile friendly as it lacks support on certain mobile devices for example Apple iPhone and iPad.
- Privacy – Flash uses local shared object (flash cookies) to save application data. Although this data is not shared across domains, it is stored locally on the device. Privacy policies were often limited in disclosing this.
All these factors greatly contributed to the development of alternative technologies and the overall decline of Adobe Flash popularity. Google reports that current usage of Flash among Chrome browser users is down to 17% and it is of course expected to continue declining.
Source: The Chromium Projects (chromium.org)
Does it affect me?
If your website utilizes Adobe Flash player in any form then yes, it does. If you are not sure, you can use our Adobe Flash Test Tool to check if your website has any Flash elements.
What are the alternatives?
Over the years, new open standards were developed to compete with Flash. One such standard was HTML5 which is now natively supported by all modern browsers and it does not require download and installation of external plugins. It is now extremely easy to embed media to webpages. Here is an example that embeds “example-movie” in mp4 format using “video” tag:
<video width="640" height="480" controls>
<source src="example-movie.mp4" type="video/mp4">
Your browser does not support the video tag.
Additionally, using HTML5 standards together with open source Java APIs for 2D and 3D rendering like WebGL developers can create games and applications accessible via browser.
The future of rich internet applications is bright and full of possibilities. Adobe Flash has arguably played an important role in web development and content creation but it is now time for it to slowly sail off into the sunset.
The website analysis & SEO tool for Chrome browser provides a handy extension for users to run iwebchk reports.
When installed, the iwebchk icon button will be added to the Google Chrome toolbar.
When clicked it will initiate a comprehensive review in SEO, performance, validity, security, accessibility, social media, backlinks, visitors, technologies and usability, of any website that is currently being viewed by the user.
Character sets (charsets) are utilized by browsers to convert information from stream of bytes into readable characters. Each character is represented by a value and each value has assigned corresponding character in a table. There are literally hundreds of the character encoding sets that are in use. Here is a list of just a few common character encoding used on the web ordered by popularity:
- UTF-8 (Unicode) Covers: Worldwide
- ISO-8859-1 (Latin alphabet part 1) Covers: North America, Western Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, Africa
- WINDOWS-1252 (Latin I)
- ISO-8859-15 (Latin alphabet part 9) Covers: Similar to ISO 8859-1 but replaces some less common symbols with the euro sign and some other missing characters
- WINDOWS-1251 (Cyrillic)
- ISO-8859-2 (Latin alphabet part 2) Covers: Eastern Europe
- GB2312 (Chinese Simplified)
- WINDOWS-1253 (Greek)
- WINDOWS-1250 (Central Europe)
- US-ASCII (basic English)
Note that popularity of particular charsets greatly depends on the geographical region. You can find all names for character encodings in the IANA registry.
As you can see there are multiple possibilities to choose from therefore character encoding information should always be specified in the HTTP Content-Type response headers send together with the document. Without specifying charset you risk that characters in your document will be incorrectly interpreted and displayed.
In Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) a header is simply a part of the message containing additional text fields that are send from or to the server. When browsers request a webpage, in addition to the HTML source code of a webpage the web server also sends fields containing various metadata describing settings and operational parameters of the response. In another words, the HTTP header is a set of fields containing supplemental information about the user request or server response.
From the example above, the “Response Headers” contain several fields with information about the server, content and encoding where the line
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
informs the browser that characters in the document are encoded using UTF-8 charset.
Google webmaster tools team have just rolled out new and improved navigation. The new organization separates features according to the search stages which are crawling, indexing and serving:
- Crawl section containing information about how Google crawls and discovers data. There you can find information about crawl errors, stats, blocked URLs, sitemaps and URL Parameters. Under this section you can also use the “Fetch as Google”
- Google Index section contains information about index status, content keywords and has option to remove URLs
- Search Traffic section lists searched queries, backlinks and internal links.
There is also new “Search Appearance” section with a nice popup showing search appearance overview with detailed explanation of each element:
Under Search Appearance section you can also find information pretending to the popup such as structured data of your content, data highlighter, HTML improvements and sitelinks.
In a past, utilizing HTML tables for layout was a common practice. Although, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) have been developed by World Wide Web Consortium in 1996, the technology was not fully adopted until 2004, about the time when CSS 2.1 working draft was proposed. Before then, many browsers supported CSS 1 and CSS2 but the actual implementation and support was often incomplete and buggy. Today, most modern browsers support CSS3 and all major browsers support CSS2 and CSS2.1 specifications therefore there is no reason not to utilize CSS for your website’s layout.