None and (Not Yet) Done

A funny thing happened on the way to the stats page.

It’s been a little over two months since Gridulator launched, and now that the initial traffic spikes are cleared I wanted to take a closer look at how the numbers are adding up. While Gridulator doesn’t use Flash, I feel what I’m seeing on that front merits some note. Here’s the current breakdown for installed Flash versions as of this morning, courtesy of Mint’s User Agent 007 panel:

  • Flash 10: 87%
  • None: 13%
  • Flash 9: <1%
  • Flash 8: <1%
  • Flash 6: <1%
  • Flash 3: <1%

That percentage for “None”? That’s something that would have been unthinkable three years ago, and stunning for a plugin that has at times claimed practical ubiquity with an installed base of nearly 99%.

The New, Old Reality

You see, for Flash designers and developers the conversation used to center on, “What version?” Then Adobe smartly rolled out automatic updating and the “version spread” tightened dramatically. Whereas in the early days you would have something like 80% of your audience on the most recent version, 10% on the previous version, and the rest lagging on various legacy installs, you now averaged better than 90% on the latest version at nearly all times (and often in the upper 90s at that).

That is until very recently. That’s when “None” started making its comeback tour, kicked off by the iYouknowwhat and the wave that followed. This has shifted the old Flash version targeting question from “current vs legacy” to “current vs none at all”. (Where I would argue it should have been all along, but I digress…)

Basically, a Reminder

To be clear, Gridulator’s audience is a design-specific, niche one. One that I like to fancy is a bit further along than the average. Nor is this post intended to be an op-ed on the efficacy of using Flash. (Still the same answer on that one: depends on your use case.) These numbers are my own. Your mileage may vary. But as an observation from the field, it lends credence to the casual talk that a ground shift away from Flash is indeed taking place, at least in some small part.

What does this mean for everyday life if you’re a Flash developer? Well, for one thing, it should serve as a timely reminder that alternate content for your Flash work is a requirement, not an option to be jammed in after the fact. (And no, a one sentence, “Sorry you must have Flash installed,” message does not constitute meaningful content.) In fact, what this should be highlighting is that calling it “alternate” or “fallback” content is just plain backwards. Just as with progressive enhancement and DOM scripting, you should be starting with that content and layering embellishments like Flash on top. The icing on the cake, not the flour in the mix. For an increasing share of the audience, that content is the experience now.