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Why does Flash suck so bad on the Mac?
November 9, 2009 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Why does Flash suck so bad on the Mac?

Are there any Mefites with an inside scoop (or informed opinions) about why Flash (e.g., YouTube videos) chews up so much CPU time on Macs?

It's literally (much) more efficient for me to watch a YouTube video in Windows 7 under Parallels than in Safari.

I know there are other clever ways to get around the problem, but I'm really curious why this problem persists. Perhaps this explains why Steve won't let in on the iPhone??

Thanks!
posted by mpls2 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Because it's not using your GPU for anything. All of the rendering and scaling is done in software, and that's expensive.

(I'm a Linux person, so I'm guessing here) Parallels probably has Windows display drivers that hook into the Mac's accelerated display system. Windows Flash is able to take advantage of the GPU, so through Parallels you get a GPU-enhanced Flash in exchange for the memory overhead of running Windows inside Mac OS X.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2009


I have no scoops, but all I know is that multi-platform development is hard and it's worse when it has to be a flexible as flash.

That doesn't excuse Adobe for just how bad Flash is, but still.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2009


I'd love to know the inside scoop on this one too, but Adobe's not talking. There are conspiracy theories that say Microsoft's kicking back funds to Adobe if they keep making Flash suck on competing platforms (Mac and Linux). I tend to doubt that kind of hearsay but it's the closest thing to an explanation I've heard besides "Adobe can't program worth jack for anything besides Windows and they don't want to bother trying to improve." Which, given their offerings of late, rings truer than it should. Especially considering they started as a Mac company back in the day and have drifted far from their base.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:15 AM on November 9, 2009


It isn't Flash, in general. Rather, it's Flash when any animation or video is involved. There are countless Flash-based games online that never give a Mac's processors any grief at all. Add motion or video (especially HD Flash video) and all hell breaks loose.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:19 AM on November 9, 2009


And, fwiw, it's always been bad on a Mac. As bad as it is in OSX, it was geometrically worse in the pre-Adobe, OS9 days.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2009


As long as it works well on the dominant platform, and is passable on the the rest, they gain very little from improving their performance on anything but the dominant platform. If 90% of your users are on Windows, that is literally the only platform that needs any optimization at all, any effort put into improving performance for the last 10% is pretty much wasted money.

If their content did not display on Mac and Linux, they may risk losing market share to something more portable, but the complaints of 10% will not be enough to make content providers move to a better performing cross platform alternative, even if it does exist.
posted by idiopath at 8:28 AM on November 9, 2009


FWIW, while flash may be bad on OS X in general, there are differences in performance on different hardware and OS iterations. For example, apparently the recent 27" iMacs frequently have horrendous flash issues, where it slows down the entire computer (OS X 10.6.1). Personally I've seen this on my gear too - my old G4 PPC mini with 1.5GHz and 1GB RAM running 10.4.11 has no problems at all with flash, while the exact same video will kick the fans on the 15" 2008 MBP into overdrive (10.6.1) and CPU usage spikes crazy. I don't think it's all Adobe's fault. There are problems on Apple's side too.
posted by VikingSword at 8:57 AM on November 9, 2009


qxntpqbbbqxl - is that documented somewhere?
posted by mpls2 at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2009


Flash 10.1, the release of which is imminent, will greatly increase hardware acceleration of video and even vector drawing on all platforms. Adobe realizes that its video performance is sorely lacking and it is at risk of losing marketshare to Silverlight in this area if they don't step up their game.
posted by zsazsa at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2009


While orthogonal to your particular question (around Safari), I found that my Youtubes played significantly better after this quick tweak.
posted by sub-culture at 10:20 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


My guess: It's a lot harder to find and justify paying for talented Mac developers. If you are Adobe, all your Mac talent is wrapped up in Photoshop, not flash.
posted by chairface at 10:35 AM on November 9, 2009


If 90% of your users are on Windows, that is literally the only platform that needs any optimization at all, any effort put into improving performance for the last 10% is pretty much wasted money.

In general, I'd agree, but I don't think that's the whole story here, and I think saying they won't gain much is less valid by the day.

Apple may have 10 percent, but it's an important 10 percent, it's an educated 10 percent, and it's a 10 percent that can be pretty wealthy. Adobe can't ignore that, and I'm guessing that it won't be too long until the discrepancies (bad on mac / good on windows) vanish.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 3:45 PM on November 9, 2009


Flash 10.1, the release of which is imminent, will greatly increase hardware acceleration of video and even vector drawing on all platforms.

Well, almost all platforms. Flash 10 was incompatible with older versions of OSX. So, many of us will have to continue living with crappy Flash.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:47 PM on November 16, 2009


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