Smartphones are wildly powerful devices. They have processing power and memory that rivals PCs of just a few years past, and while their screens may be tiny, they often have the resolution to measure up pixel-for-pixel with full-sized monitors. Yet despite all theses resources, phones often end up coming in seriously behind PCs in one key area: web browsing. There are plenty of reasons for why this continues to be, and one big one is incompatibility with Adobe Flash. Putting all arguments about technical limitations versus intentional handicapping aside, the fact of the matter is that a lot of websites continue to embrace Flash, and for mobile users, more often than not heavy Flash usage leads to a crippled or flat-out inaccessible site. Now Google’s taking steps to warn users when they’re headed in the direction of a site that might give them such a less-than-optimal mobile experience.
Starting this week, Google searches are attempting to detect when they’re being conducted on a mobile device that doesn’t support certain web standards (like Flash) and will present a warning message about possible incompatibility in the search results themselves. You’re still able to click through and try your luck, but the idea here is that the heads-up could save users a lot of wasted time trying to navigate through sites that just aren’t built to work with their smartphones.
The side effect here, beyond simply improving the web experience for mobile users by keeping them away from what doesn’t work, may be to put pressure on sites that continue to rely on Flash; complaints of “Google says your site doesn’t work with phones” are liable to carry a lot more weight than individual reports of “I can’t get this to work,” and could steer devs towards tech like the Google-favored HTML5.