Two approaches to Flash
Posted Apr 5, 2007 1:17 UTC (Thu) by elanthis
In reply to: Two approaches to Flash
Parent article: Two approaches to Flash
You are lucky in your friends, then. The vast majority of regular people who have no irrational, social, or philosophical attachment to a technology are going to (maybe) try Firefox, find out it doesn't work for some sites, and go back to IE.
In all honesty, for those very people, Firefox is useless. It does nothing truly remarkable that IE does not, and all it does is add yet more semantic overhead in that it requires the user to identify a problem and work around it by using a second solution that would have worked perfectly 100% of the time for all their browsing needs.
Sure, IE may be a poor choice for some sites. There are even sites and web apps that work only in non-IE browsers. I've written more than a few myself for intranet usage and the like.
In the end, you can at best say that users have a choice between two different varieties of broken. Instead of fostering that kind of lunacy by forcing users to make choices, the better idea is to just improve one of the choices to make it 100% usable for everyone. Whether that choice is Firefox or IE is irrelevant to most people; they just want something that works.
For the goal of pushing Free Software, you'll never win by simply making a "good enough" clone of a popular product. You'll get the geeks on the bandwagon, and that's it. Some of those geeks will try to push their ideology on their friends and family - something I tried to do once upon a time - but that behavior is a complete disservice to the friends and family. If, for example, my mother is completely happy on Windows, with AOL, and IE, and Microsoft Office, and there is nothing lacking from her computing experience, she has nothing to gain from a practical and realistic standpoint. She doesn't care about FOSS, and she doesn't have to. She also knows from experience that she prefers AOL over any other portal/mail providor, that Firefox does not work on some of the sites she visits, that OpenOffice cannot handle all of the documents she wants to use, and that Linux cannot run some of the weird niche apps and games she likes to use.
Your approach might be to force her to run Linux, with a Windows dual boot, and force her to restart her computer or start up a virtual machine to run Windows whenever she needs those little extras. But she has gained nothing. She has lost. She now has to do more work to get all the functionality and use she had before, and she has gained no practical benefit from any of it. The Linux install does nothing that she needs that Windows didn't do. She can't even claim to have saved money or become "ethically pure" by using FOSS. All she gets is a pain in the ass.
Same goes with Flash. There is no huge benefit to running Gnash or swfdec over the Adobe plugin right now. This may not always be the case - the Adobe plugin is unstable in my experience, so Gnash and swfdec might one day be more reliable than Adobe's plugin. It will be nice if distros can come with Flash functionality pre-installed. At some point, it might be that installing the Adobe plugin is the action which decreases functionality or increases semantic load for no gain.
Right now, that's not the case. For the average user, the Adobe plugin does everything, and the Free alternatives add no value. They're interesting only to FOSS advocates. And even then, there's no benefit to a FOSS purist to be able to choose between "broken" and "evil."
The only people who have any practical need for such a plugin-selection feature are the early adopters and beta-testers, who I dare say are very small in number - too small to warrant Mozilla adding support for runtime plugin selection.
If someone decides to write a plugin wrapper, more power to them. I won't use it, but I have no reason to stop someone from writing such a thing. Their time, their choice. However, I will complain the second someone tries to force such a thing into distros, decreasing the simplicity and increasing the barrier to use solely for the benefit of a small handful of people who care neither for true practically nor for true Freedom.
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