I follow Coté for his coverage of the IT management market. He also covers the so-called RIA (“Rich Internet Application”) playground, so through his blog (e.g. this post today) I involuntarily get news and comments about Flash, AIR, Silverlight and other I-hate-the-Web technologies. And I keep thinking “I hope they won’t mess up the Web too much for the rest of us on their way down to failure”.
Every time I run into a “no Flash, no service” site, I have a flashback (if you think the pun is funny then consider it intended) to 1995. That’s when Jean-Michel Jarre (the French musician, of Oxygène fame) launched his first web site, jarre.net (now de-commissioned). As a pioneer of electronic music, it wasn’t surprising to see him be one of the first artists to use the Web. As someone who likes to illuminate entire cities with laser beams, it wasn’t surprising to see him use overkill technology. So his Photoshop-wielding consultant created an entire site where each page was just one big image, with embedded text. It took forever to load and the stupidity of the approach shocked me so much that I remember it 13 years later. All the links were based on server-side image maps (the x/y coordinates of the pixel that you clicked on get sent to the server where a map links these coordinates to a target URL). The way HTML was at the time, you couldn’t use fancy fonts, colored text and elaborate wrapping (but you could blink!). And we all know that you simply can’t provide dates and locations of upcoming concerts without colored text, twisted fonts and a fancy layout.
The Internet Archive doesn’t have a copy of this original Jarre site, I don’t know if it has survived anywhere other than in my scarred-for-life brain. And if you go to JM Jarre’s current site, guess what? It is a Flash-only site. With my non-Flash Firefox all I get is a black page with a sentence (in French only, and not even grammatically correct) pointing me to the Flash download page. Looking at it with my Flash-enabled IE confirms (after a long wait for the Flash content to download) what I expected: other than a few videos (which could indeed use a simple Flash player embedded in the HTML page), there is no value whatsoever in using Flash for this site. The photos of his 80’s haircut would look just as good/bad in HTML.
Just like there are some usages for which image maps are appropriate, there are some for which Flash and friends are the right tool. But if they were only used where they belong, there wouldn’t be nearly as much hype around them. Poor Coté would have to spend more time with boring IT management geeks and less with Flash hipsters.