February 15th, 2006
Flappr, my pet project to design a more explorative interface for Flickr, has just bumped to its most significant update. Check it out.
A few of the new features:
- User Profile Panel: Clicking on a buddy icon now opens up the new User Profile section, which gives you quick access to more information on the photographer, their favorites, and now a legitimate and easier-to-use display of their photosets.
- Quickly view a grid of previous photos: this was a feature/bug that had for a long time been accessible by hovering to the right side of the screen. It’s now properly encapsulated into a button down by the userstrips.
- Search history: Go back to any search you made, viewing a list of the most recent. It will even remember searches from your previous visits. Try it out by clicking either the down arrow in the thumbnail container or by using the new button nearby the userstrips.
- Running newest builds of Flashr and Fuse = snappier tweens and faster, cacheable data requests.
- Adding to favorites now displays confirmation
- A new spinning square when the photo enlargement is loading in! (ok, so why save the best for last, anyway?)
- FlapprLinks have received a long-overdue renovation
- Pagination issues are resolved (this was previously a headache for favorites/photosets)
- Repositioning after a browser resize now more reliable
- Keyboard shortcuts no longer interfere with comment form
- Hover boxes no longer appear over photos without titles
- Text overflows, while not entirely gone, are greatly minimized
Read more about the project here.
February 1st, 2006
The first numbers have arrived. Flash Player 8 is already on 45% of all Internet-enabled computers in the United States. Even plummer are the numbers for Canada and Europe, close to 55%. While to an outside observer this might not be a resounding victory – it’s still only about half after all – the important axis yet to be mentioned in this survey is that of time: at the point of the survey, FP8 had only been available for 3 months!
In a bit of awe, I dangled these numbers to a friend only to learn that they intentionally had removed Flash from their browser, and to boot were mumbling something about how they never trust numbers. It made me consider – should Flash developers trust the numbers? The cited NPD Online survey, after all, only uses 2,000 people in its survey – all of which are doing so voluntarily in exchange for the chance at a $100 payout. These aren’t Internet neophytes. Hence, these survey users != your users. That said, no matter what margin of error you’re willing to give, I did not expect the newest version of the Flash Player to be adopted so quickly
Why should I be surprised? After all, a rapid adoption of the newest Flash Player is not without precedent; it has repeatedly been the most quickly adopted software in the history of the Internet, due on one part because it is free, and in another because of its ease of upgrade. As the browser race heats up between IE and Firefox over the next year with the release of IE7 and Windows Vista, the rate of adoption will likely boost even higher, when those who download new browsers automatically get the new Flash Player included.
But I’m hoping something beyond FP8 will be included with Vista.
Each Flash Player version comes out with new features, but no matter how significant this is to the new web experience, if the user cannot view this experience or is burdened in the attempt to install the required player in order to view it, we run into the classic debate of web development: how do you value lost customers vs. impressed customers? When a viewer on average spends 0-4 seconds (depending on the study) before hitting their back button, how do you sell a client on a project that employs the newest Flash Player, knowing that a subsection of their potential viewers, no matter how marginal, will quickly flee once they don’t receive the information they expect near instantly (experience be damned)?
This Flash-Player-transition debate is not unfamiliar. But when previous versions of the Flash Player were released the web was a different place. Now, the web is legitimizing itself as a business. Aside from the new graphics libraries in FP8 which open new doors to Flash Math Creativity that I hold great respect for, does publishing for FP8 offer a new opportunity beyond what FP7 offers? From my exchanges, the answer is generally no. A few paying clients accept the potential of reaching a smaller audience in order to have clearer more readable text for everyone, but it is not the popular choice. Sacrificing audience for an otherwise impossible presentation is worth considering, sacrificing audience for aesthetics is often not.
My 2 cents: no matter how significant these adoption rates look for FP8, the results should only remind you of when your team wins their division in spring training. It’s all moot except the portent that we’ll see even higher adoption rates for the next Flash Player (currently available in beta as 8.5 for use with Flex Builder, but will be released as 9.0).
This for several reasons:
- The upgrading experience will be even easier
- Net users will be even savvier as a whole, and update more readily
- If released as projected, it will be the quickest turnaround of a new Flash Player, therefore merging into the adoption rate of those who would otherwise have downloaded FP8
Some might write this opine off as a classic developer vs. designer bias, but I believe that FP8 adoption rates are just a warm up. Soon Flash applications that were impossible or unpopular before will become practical – at which point a client might be willing to sign off on a FP9 project even if adoption rate is less than 25%, primarily because of the lack of alternatives. Because FP8 is not in the same category, even with numbers as high as it has garnered, I expect that the majority of us will have a hard time selling projects that require FP8 – no matter what NPD Online says.
In short – welcome FP8… but here’s to FP9!