Welcome!

Adobe Flex Authors: Matthew Lobas, PR.com Newswire, Shelly Palmer, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Adobe Flex

Adobe Flex: Article

How Can Flash Player Detection Be Truly Effective?

Best Practices for Flash Player Detection

The problem has riddled developers since the birth of Macromedia Flash: What happens when a site visitor doesn't have the version of Macromedia Flash Player needed for my content, or doesn't have one at all? Many answers have appeared over the years. And so far, the work has not been the result of developers trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it's been the result of developers trying to invent a wheel that actually works.

Can Flash detection be truly effective? Can it be seamless for site visitors and simple for you to implement? Can it make the player upgrade process friendlier?

In this article, I'll discuss the pros and cons of several approaches to Flash detection (and include a Flash Detection Experience Matrix). I also describe the new Flash 8 detection script, which, along with Flash Player Express Install, just might be the answer we've all been waiting for.

A Brief History of Why We Need Flash Detection
With new versions of Macromedia Flash Player appearing on the web roughly every 18 months for the last several years, the task of ensuring your site visitors' player versions are compatible with your content can be downright frustrating. On the flip side, nothing is a bigger turn-off than landing on a web page that points a finger at you and says, "Macromedia Flash Player is required to view the content on this page," leaving you without a way to continue your experience without upgrading your player. After all, it's the developer's job to make sure you can do what you want to do on his or her site. It's the developer's job to determine which version of Macromedia Flash Player is installed in your browser and to react accordingly.

User experience, as we all (should) know (by now), is vital to the success of a website or web application. Bad experiences are the equivalent of walking into a clothing store, asking a salesperson to see that fancy shirt hanging on the wall, and being told, flatly, "No." And telling me my system is somehow incompatible with your allegedly amazing website is like following up this experience by telling me to leave the store. Take a good look at the Flash detection experience implemented on your own website and try to see it the way your grandmother might see it. Does she have the plug-in she needs? If not, what does she see, if anything at all? What happens if she chooses not to upgrade? If she does upgrade, will she be able to quickly return to your page?

If you use Flash on your website, your only real option is to make sure you have an answer for all of the preceding questions, and implement a detection method that handles each situation.

So far, that's been much easier said than done.

So Many Solutions, So Little Success
Over the years, I've met hundreds of Flash developers, and many of them have their own way of handling Flash detection, but several approaches have risen to the top of the stack to become at least somewhat standard. These approaches vary wildly in features, compatibility, effectiveness, and user experience, but one thing stands true regardless: none of them works 100% of the time.

To make an informed decision about which approach is best for you and your site visitors, you need to know the facts. Lucky for you, I've done a lot of the legwork already and whipped up a fancy Flash Detection Experience Matrix for you, along with an overview of each of the tested approaches, and an introduction to the newest Flash detection script. Before you move on, however, it's important to understand what is needed to design a good Flash detection experience, for the simple act of displaying Flash content on your site presents several very key issues:

  • Does the user have Macromedia Flash Player?
  • If needed, does the user have JavaScript enabled?
  • Does the user have the required version of Flash Player?
Detecting the Existence of Macromedia Flash Player
To create a good detection experience, you need first to be able to specify what happens when Flash Player is not installed on the user's browser. If you offer no alternate content, is the user going to sit there staring at a blank screen, hoping that his or her web-savvy neighbor will come along and save the day? Most likely, the answer is no. Instead, your visitor will head off to your competitor's site, cursing your name the whole time. See, not every person that visits your site is going to want to perform a software installation just to view your content, regardless of how simple it is. So you need to offer your site visitor a compelling reason to perform the installation. In other words, you need to tell your users what they will see or gain by installing the player, and make sure it's something that benefits them directly. If your Flash detection method is dependent on the use of JavaScript, you also need to plan what happens if the user has disabled the use of JavaScript in his or her browser. Ideally, you should be able to display alternate content, either asking the user (very nicely) to enable JavaScript and refresh the page, or offering HTML content in lieu of the Flash content.

Detecting the Required Flash Player Version
Next, you must handle old versions of Flash Player. If your content is designed for Flash Player 8, for example, and your site visitor has Flash Player 6 installed, he or she should see alternate content. Again, the alternate content can either ask very nicely for the visitor to upgrade or offer HTML content in place of Flash content.

Finally, you probably want the solution to be easy to implement, and so effective that you don't have to think about it ever again.

Now that you have a list of required elements for a good Flash detection experience, let's take a quick look at some common options currently in existence.

A History of Flash Detection Methods
Now, I'd like to give you a brief history of some of the methods developers have used to perform Flash detection to date.

Flash Satay
Introduced in an article on A List Apart, Flash Satay was intended as a standards-compliant way to embed SWF files into HTML pages. The side-effect, however, is that it allows for the display of alternate content in the event Flash Player is not found, so it qualifies as a method of Flash detection. The idea is that, using valid XHTML, a browser with no Flash Player installed runs across an <object> tag trying to create a Flash object, realizes it can't do so, and simply skips to the next node, which can be a text node or an <img> tag specifying alternate content. In short, if the browser can't create the object it needs, it displays the content in the next child node.

One issue with this solution is that it doesn't account for older plug-in versions. If the browser recognizes the object type, which it will if any version of Flash Player exists in the browser, it will create the Flash object. If your content uses Flash Player 7­specific features, and the user has Flash Player 6, she may see nothing but a white box on the HTML page.

This method also has the disadvantage of not streaming the SWF file when using Microsoft Internet Explorer. For large SWF files this can be reason enough not to use this method. Flash Satay is great for small movies, but once your content exceeds 100K you should look into alternative detection methods. They might not validate as standards-compliant XHTML, but they will provide a much better user experience, and that is what really counts in the end.

More Stories By Robert Hoekman

Robert Hoekman, Jr., is a Macromedia Certified Professional and a user-experience advocate. He founded the Flash and Multimedia Users Group of Arizona (FMUG.az), currently works as a Flash developer for Interactive Alchemy, and is the author of Flash Out of the Box (O'Reilly, 2004) and the "10 Minutes with Flash" series of articles featured in InformIT.com's Flash
Reference Guide. Learn more about Robert at www.rhjr.net.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
checkDigital 02/26/06 07:11:57 AM EST

|| Flash Satay is great for small movies, but once your content exceeds 100K you should look into alternative detection methods. ||

The Satay method works in Internet Explorer, Mozilla and Netscape but does anyone know, does it work in Safari?

@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things’). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing? IoT is not about the devices, it’s about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. In his session at Internet of Things at Cloud Expo | DXWor...