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Flash Player installed on 97% of Internet-enabled desktops

A statement which is widely broadcast, but is it true?

5:02 pm on Nov 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

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As noted on Macromedia's website: In June 2003, NPD Research, the parent company of MediaMetrix, conducted a study to determine what percentage of Web browsers have Macromedia Flash preinstalled. The results show that 97.4% of Web users can experience Macromedia Flash content without having to download and install a player.

Up to this point I had believed that macromedia's statement was probably quite accurate. The sample size of the study was most probably significantly large, which is always a prerequisite of a true-to-life study.

However it wasn't until I recently introduced some flash content onto our company's website that I realised that not everyone in my office could actually view flash content on their MSIE6 browsers. Of the 11 computers I looked at, 3 of these could not view flash. Now I realise that my sample is small, but I definitely thought when looking at this 97% figure that more in my office would be able to view flash content.

How this situation came to be, is besides the point. From where i'm standing this is a situation quite possibly repeated widely across the world. We must remember that the majority of us at WebmasterWorld are 'computer experts' of varying degrees. There must be a large number of people out there who are internet enabled, but who's knowledge means that they do not have flash player and do not know how or where to get it.

Are we all conscious enough when it comes to the numbers of flash enabled browsers out there? or does Macromedia's statement provide enough comfort for us?

[macromedia.com ]

5:06 pm on Nov 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

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From the above link:
2,000 participants comprising a representative Internet sample responded in this survey. We estimate the sampling error for this study to be +/- 2% at the 95% confidence level.
7:57 pm on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Your figure gives 27% can't see it (73% can). This illustrates how audiences can differ. It's also scary. I'm sure a lot of us assumed everyone could see Flash.

I guess this means that performing ongoing non-intrusive checking of what your real audience can actually see is important.

2:20 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Another gotcha is this. The numbers they quote are for *any* version of the Flash player. The install base of more current versions will be smaller.
2:29 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hmmm.... I'm one of the 3%.

But 97% seems like it would be high. Maybe I'm more out of touch than I thought.

3:43 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I've always thought that estimate sounded high.

Of the non-computer professionals I know, I'd estimate that no more than 50% would even have a clue how to downstall and install Flash.

7:09 am on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Flash does get installed automatically so it could be high.

I don't see details of the research method in the report. I also take it the estimated error is from Macromedia not from NPD. From a quick check of the NPD site their panels are self selected with the promise of

  • Making a difference
  • Earning money
  • Having fun

I'm not sure how much this self selected group differs from the general Internet population. Anyone got any ideas?

Anyone got their own data?

(Notice that the prevalence of Flash 6 is in the low to mid 80's but version 5 format is mid to low 90's.)

4:17 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I do think that NPD is not getting the not so computer-savvy users, and that they're attracting people for the panel that are, let's say "fun-oriented." The kind of people that will have Flash installed.

However, they're likely to make some kind of correction. But I believe researchers in general tend to be too optimistic about their sample being representative.

5:15 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Well, I know of a State agency that has blocked Flash content for two reasons - security and bandwidth. Browsers may have it installed, but none of the content gets through servers/firewalls.

Wonder if there are other large organizations that do the same?


5:48 pm on Nov 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It's not on my PC, at least not integrated into the browser. Or any of the computers that I manage for that matter (two small networks and a handful of hardware clients). Guess I am the minority but somehow I don't feel bad about this.

Flash is abused 90% of the time for ad content that I don't care to see (or hear) or suck my bandwidth. If there is an animation I want to enjoy I just download it first and play it back outside the browser.

1:28 am on Nov 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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97% may have "some" version of flash installed - but the reality is that many developers "insist" that you have the latest version to see their content.

And nothing annoys me more than having the popup appear to ask me to download the latest version of flash to see some clown's banner advertisement! NFI


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