Blog

Google Pulls Flash Support In Chrome

Background

Flash has long been used as the go to technology for rich media advertising, but Google has announced an update to the Chrome browser due to go live for September 2015 that will impact the ability to serve creative built using flash. In addition, Firefox (which accounts for 10% of browsers) will now also block all Flash activity as a default; Safari (with a 6% share) has a power-saving mode that has been enabled for approximately a year where it will auto-pause Flash; which leaves Internet Explorer (which accounts for 19% of browsers) alone with no immediate plans to follow suit.

What are the implications and what will happen to Flash ads?

Flash ads will be static in the first frame of animation and will show a greyed out overlay with a play button icon, similar to video. The creative will not be able to be played. It is expected to affect approximately 100 million flash ads per day. Note that this change does not affect video ads regardless of Flash or HTML5 player. In addition, this will not affect sites built primarily in Flash.

The Chrome update only impacts desktop versions of Chrome. The goal is to decrease CPU (Central Processing Unit) usage; Chrome will assess how many flash animations are running on that page and it will ‘intelligently pause’ the non-central animations, for example banner ads. This change doesn’t impact mobile, as Flash is not typically supported anyway.

Flash was created in the 1990s to run internet applications and runs very slowly on platforms such as Linux and Mac OSX since it doesn't have access to GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) processing causing the application to slow down immensely. It worked well enough for a PC based world, but faces increasing challenges in a multi-platform digital environment.

The widespread adoption of mobile devices created a need for new technology to avoid issues such as overheating, battery drain and touch screen compatibility. HTML5 was developed by the W3C over a five-year period starting in 2009, with the final spec only released in October of 2014.

What does this mean?

The time seems right to join the movement towards a HTML5 standard. Given the approximate 50% penetration of Chrome in desktop and the continued growth of mobile, a move to the HTML5 standard will have a positive effect on creative performance and ensure that all creative renders as intended, whilst also avoiding the use of simple and less compelling backup GIFs. However, much work remains to be done to create consistency around the use of HTML5.

Mindshare Ireland is working hard on this, we are engaged with our adserving partners and creative agencies to ensure our client campaigns are in no way affected when these changes come into effect. Chrome currently accounts for over 40% of our ad impressions, so it is of critical importance that we get this changeover right. For this reason we are currently putting alot of time and effort into developing a HTML5 & animated gif solution, while engaging with creative agency partners on how best to roll this out come September.