Some of you might remember those flashy web specials with a lot of animations and bling bling back in the early 2000s.

You typically had to load tons of data prior to seeing anything and often this was more smoke and mirrors and not necessarily substance.

I do think that the presentation of content is extremely important and plays a major role how we perceive it – but at the same time you can not really pretend that the content is valuable by just presenting it in a bombastic way. It is a bit like with Hollywood movies with tons of special effects and a very poor plot.

But back to Macromedia Flash and how it disappeared. The Flash Browser plugin was very popular in the early 2000s but it actually had a lot of disadvantages:

  • Massive loading time
  • No real cms support and hence maintenance and multi-language set up was a nightmare
  • Not really crawlable for search engines
  • Not working well on mobile devices
  • Not really performant on weaker devices

But despite these facts marketing people loved Flash, because you were not bound to any restrictions – so no grids, you can do animations, you can use any color, fonts what so ever you want and were not restricted to the boring CMS functionality.

Nevertheless, Flash died one day and it was Apple who killed it. They simply did not support it on their devices any longer – starting with tablets and smartphones. This was because of performance issues but potentially Apple saw also other things like security issues.

It’s been said at that time that you could almost do everything what you could do with Flash also with HTML 5. This is not entirely wrong but the effort to do this is quite high. From my subjective perspective that’s why we haven’t seen not so many “interactive webspecials” anymore these days. I must admit that I somehow miss them, at least if they have a clear purpose and they are more used as something which stands alone, like a movie. Something to impress the audience, but also provide valuable content.

But you know what? Flash is back since some years. Someone resurrected it and called it “Ceros”. It comes more or less with the same kind of functionality, although the action script part is missing (which was the best about Flash I guess).

But it also comes with the same kind of downsides like outlined above, but nevertheless people like it, more or less for the same reason why they liked Flash.

Somehow I find that really funny, but it also just tells me that we all want to get impressed by smoke and mirrors, this is somehow entertaining us. Probably it is also something which distracts us in our daily life and we are all a little bit tired of complex information and rather want easy entertainment.

In any case I’d say that you still need to think about when to use such things and when not to use it. If it is just about creating smoke and mirrors – well I am not sure if this is really needed.