Google has just announced that as of the beginning of September Flash advertisements will be displayed as static images – the reason for this is to protect users from potential code injection attacks. The change was first discussed in June, and has been tested in the Beta Channel, and is now live in the Stable version of the Chrome browser too. The update won’t affect a huge number of advertisers – most people have caught on to the idea that HTML 5 is the future, and there is a movement towards completely killing off Flash. In fact, the International Advertising Bureau has called HTML5 the new ‘industry standard’ hoping to create a richer and more immersive experience for both marketers and consumers. Flash is problematic because it is slow to render, and it is a serious drain on phone battery life too, but in spite of those problems advertisers have clung to it as an old, familiar standard. It is the security flaws that finally killed it, however. Adobe themselves have been pushing for people to move on to Adobe Air, but luring people to the technology when HTML5 exists has been problematic. Amazon has banned advertisers from using Flash on adverts that they are hosting, and Firefox blocks Flash by default. There are still some ad networks that accept Flash, but with Firefox not displaying it, and Chrome not animating Flash advertisements unless the user explicitly selects the ad, it’s unlikely that advertisers will run Flash based ads for much longer. There’s little point in running ads that end users won’t even see.
The iPhone has been Flash-free for a very long time, and the Chrome version of Android has also lacked Flash by default for several years. Given that mobile web usage now exceeds desktop web usage, and mobile users have stronger searcher intent than the average desktop user, it’s surprising that Flash advertisements have remained a popular form of search marketing for so long. Mobile users are a highly valuable demographic, offering a strong return on investment. Advertisers that rely on slow, bloated and outdated technologies are missing out on a source of high quality traffic. That alone should be incentive enough to update to HTML5, and to take a close look at the layout and usability of their main website as well, if they did not do so when Mobilegeddon was impending.