I recently went through the exercise of installing both Flash and Silverlight in Firefox on Windows on my new netbook. I’m using a beta build of Windows 7 and IE still comes with an old version of Flash which usually gets updated by Adobe fairly painlessly when you hit a Flash site. However, Firefox doesn’t come with Flash and if you hit a Flash-enabled site, you get prompted to install the plug-in by Firefox. What amazed me is the number of steps required to install Flash in Firefox compared to Microsoft’s competing technology called Silverlight. Let’s take a look:
Visit a Flash-enabled site like Hulu
Step 1: Click on Install Missing Plug-in button in Firefox.
Step 2: Can’t install it automatically, so need to do a Manual Install…
Step 3: Manual Install means being sent to Adobe Flash download page.
Step 4: Download the Flash player installation file in Firefox.
Step 5: Firefox asks me if I *really* want to install this binary (yes, I know I can turn this nag off).
Step 6: Doh! Firefox is running and needs to be closed down.
Step 7: All Firefox instances need to be close – I had 4 open including the download box.
Step 8: Flash is installed.
Step 9: I finally get to the content.
So after 9 steps, I get to the content. Now let’s take a look at the Silverlight installation experience.
Visit a Silverlight-enabled site like Netflix Watch Instantly.
Step 1: Click on Install Now to get the Silverlight plug-in
Step 2: Run the Silverlight installer.
Step 3: Install the Silverlight plug-in.
Step 4: Silverlight is now installed. While you’re told to restart browsers, the Silverlight Netflix player had already started in the currently open Firefox session.
So what’s the takeaway? It is an easier and quicker experience for the end-user to install Silverlight in Firefox than it is to install Flash due to a more streamlined installation experience, lower user interaction and reduced cognitive load.
I don’t care about download size, installation time, or the fact that once one of these plug-ins is installed you don’t need to reinstall them. I’m just looking at this from an initial installation experience standpoint.
(Disclosure: I work for Microsoft, though these are my personal views and findings.)