Flash is not the 99%

An “infographic” showing some data points in the epic HTML5 vs Flash battle has recently made its rounds on Twitter and other sites.

I don’t care much for whether Flash is the bees knees for games, but I do care about people misleading people with data. And some of the data points depicted in the graphic didn’t quite sit right with me, so here’s an attempt at figuring at least one of them out.

Flash is supported by 99% of web browsers

They literally mean 0%

Taken literally, the statement that 99% of web browsers support Flash is flat out wrong. Fact is no browser supports Flash - at least not natively.

So that 99% figure should really be a flat 0%…

1 in 5 is 20%

Okay, fine, most browsers do support a method of displaying Flash content, namely the Flash Player plugin which is available as an optional download. However, only one of the major browsers - Chrome - actually ships with the plugin installed.

If we accept third party extensions as part of what a browser supports, the correct number here then becomes 20% - ie 1 of the 5 major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera) support Flash out of the box.

25% market share

There’s still some way before we reach 99%, though. And honestly, using the number of browsers as a base is pointless (but it serves as a nice illustration that statistics should rarely be taken at face value). It is more interesting to look at browser market shares in this case.

According to the numbers from W3Counter, Chromes market share was 24.6% in January 2012. This in turn means the market share of browsers able to display Flash content out of the box is roughly 25%.

Still not quite 99%.

They do statistics differently in Flashland

Let’s assume their wording is not entirely accurate. What they probably really meant to say is that 99% of internet requests come from a web browser that has Flash Player installed. Really, that’s the interesting figure if you plan on putting out Flash content.

However, that statements doesn’t seem quite right either.

Primarily because iOS famously doesn’t support Flash. In other words, no iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch is able to display Flash content - at least not as part of the browser experience.

According to the numbers from W3Counter, iOS devices accounted for 4.5% of internet traffic in January 2012. Thus, there is no chance that the market share of Flash-supporting browsers can be higher than 95.5%.

96%, and that’s my final offer

So there we have it, this must be the number they’re thinking of. If we assume that every internet user actually installs the optional Flash Player - and I suspect this is a stretch, but I am not sure where to get reliable numbers on this - 96% of all internet traffic could come from a browser that is able to display Flash content.

That’s a huge, potential user base.

However, seeing that the 99% figure of the infographic is incorrect, I wonder which of the other numbers are misleading as well.

For example, if we extend the above definition to the HTML5 column, I am fairly sure that the number of internet requests coming from a browser able to display HTML5 content is vastly higher than 40% - but that’s a topic for another post.