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Do 97% of all computers have the latest Flash plug-in?

July 06th 2002 | Julian Buckley



Do 97% of all computers have the latest Flash plug-in?

With the general release of Flash MX having come and gone, it is comforting to assume that with the obvious advances included within this package, Flash as a development tool will get more intuitive, easier to use, stronger.

Even with a cursory glance at the features offered with the new Flash MX, some of the niggly problems faced by designers have been addressed (standardized text scrolling, non-websafe color choice etc), making the next generation sites look even better; perhaps convincing more customers that they need to lose that HTML-type site (circa 1995) and get with the program.

What could be a concern for the on-line content Flash development community is this. While plenty of the Macromedia faithfull throw around he now almost cliche phrase, '97% of all computers have the Flash plug-in', do they? Do they really? (For additional details, see Macromedia Flash Player statistics page)

Well, maybe they do. Maybe they don't. The only place where this number has any chance of being accurate is in the US, but that leaves a lot of people unaccounted for. Be that as it may, for the unitiated surfer, having gone through the harrowing process of downloading and installing that Flash plug-in back in '99, it could be an unimpressive reality for them to realize that with every new release of Flash authorware, there is also a new plug-in with which to view the new version-specific content created for and by that authorware.

Of course, advocates and realists alike (just for the record, I'd consider myself both), can see the need for a new plug-in to be released with a new software version. It is a basic concept to understand. Improved game needs new rule additions, or else improved game will not work. Simple enough, right? Problem. You develop your content - it's fantastic, just the right combination of wow and class etc. and Mr. Client thinks you're the best thing since bread cut into individual pieces. That is until Mr. Client realizes that on his machine, he has the Flash 4 plug-in and you need the Flash 6 version plug-in to view his new Flash MX site in all its glory.

Believe me - this happens. And for the customer it's a complete turn off. Is it the end? Of course not - you have the trusty '97% of all computers have the Flash plug-in' comeback. Foolproof. Not really. If Mr. Client has at least some deductive reasoning, he's going to know that if the installation he made to view Flash content was not good enough to see his new site, then he is not the only one. It is a sad fact. 97% of all computers do not have the latest Flash plug-in, and quite frankly, this is a wave that many users will always be on the wrong side of.

What's to be done?
Well, if you want to have a Flash site which offers immediate content delivery, instead of running a JAVAScript plug-in detector or other similar arrangement, it's a fairly basic solution (and those are the best kind, in a lot of cases). If your new site does not make use of the latest Flash version's techniques, only including carry-over features supported by all older versions of the Flash plug-in, for large-audience, non-expert viewer sites it could be a good idea to export your FLAs to the lowest possible denominator of version (see the 'Version' number in the Export Player screen). Using this method, you can instantly increase the audience potential of your new site and in return, create a seamless atmosphere the owner of the site would want to offer. All this and you'll be a lot closer to the magic number of 97%, rather than further away than you could ever know.


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