Google announced yesterday that it will begin warning smartphone users when a website in its search results relies on Flash and will suffer performance problems on the device. The warning is a not-so-subtle attempt to have website operators switch to newer technologies which don’t suffer from the same lack of support that Flash, which was incredibly popular in the early days of the Web, has since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dismissed the technology’s future in 2010.
It will be interesting to see how some of the affected websites react to this news. Flash is still popular on all kinds of sites — especially restaurant menus, for some reason — and companies don’t like it when Google inhibits their ability to reach consumers through its search engine. Maybe they’ll adopt new technologies, which is what Google wants, or maybe they’ll refuse to join everyone else in the twenty-first century despite Google’s best efforts. It’s still too early to tell.
The warning will be useful to consumers either way. Tapping a link in Google’s search results just to find that the website won’t load because it hasn’t been updated since the early aughts must be the closest an adult can get to the way a child feels when they reach for candy only to have their hands smacked away at the last second. Preventing that from happening might not make Google more popular among site owners, but it will soften that crushing disappointment.
Hell, the company might as well expand the warnings to include all websites that rely on Flash for even the most basic of functions. Even though I have the requisite plug-in installed on every browser I use on my laptop (there are many; don’t ask) it seems like Flash is responsible for all of the slow-loading websites, glitchy tools, and frustrating experiences I encounter on the Web.
My browsing experience would be much improved if these sites decided to finally drop Flash. I would even settle for Google warning me that a site relies on Flash before I click on it, just so I know that I should click the link, bang my head against the wall for a few minutes, and return to see if everything is working the way it’s supposed to. My skull won’t appreciate the beating, but at least I won’t feel like I’m living in the dark ages of the Web instead of glorious 2014.