Planning to use Flash in your newsletter? Honestly, don’t do it. To this day, we still get emails asking about any workarounds we might know of to get Flash working in email. Occasionally we even get a more aggressive email telling us we’re just plain wrong. Funnily enough, these claims are never backed up with examples.
To put this one to bed forever, we figured we’d run a series of tests across a range of email environments to get to the bottom of flash in email support once and for all.
The test email
Our test email consisted of a basic HTML page with text, images and Flash content. We also included a text-only version of the email with a link to check out the full content in a browser.
UPDATE: It turns out this method isn’t well supported at all and the best approach is to use a background image in the table cell or DIV the flash movie is being placed.
To cover a solid range of email environments, our test suite consisted of all the major PC, Mac and web-based email environments we could get our hands on.
What we found (and it aint pretty)
|Flash support across major email environments|
|PC||Displayed by default||Alternate content displayed||Security warning|
|Mac Mail||Doesn’t matter|
|Windows Live Mail (beta)|
The results really do speak for themselves (more details below). Flash support across the most popular email environments is absolutely dismal. In the past, we’ve said that unless you specifically know the environment your recipients are opening your email in, avoid flash. Well, now we can revise that down to one lonely email client.
Flash was built for the browser, and based on these results – that’s where it should stay.
A closer look
We’ve included a screenshot and summary for each of the tests we ran so you can dig a little deeper yourself. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version of the screenshot.
PC test results
OK, not a good start! Before I even get a chance to see if the flash works I get an ActiveX security warning that stops me in my tracks. After clicking OK, the email displays, but the Flash content or the fallback image is nowhere to be seen.
Outlook Express behaves much like it’s big brother. An ActiveX security warning is displayed, and once the email loads the flash content is just a blank area with no fallback image.
While a security warning wasn’t displayed, Thunderbird instantly stripped out my flash content and didn’t display a fallback image.
The trend continues… Eudora didn’t display the flash content or the fallback image, and even managed to mangle the background image behind the flash content slightly.
AOL products a very similar result to Eudora. Neither the flash content nor the fallback image was displayed.
Lotus Notes 6.5
This was always going to be a stretch, but you guessed it, Notes didn’t display the Flash movie or the fallback image.
Mac test results
Web-based test results
As I mentioned earlier, if anyone knows of a better way we can format our test email to achieve better results, we’d love to know. We’re more than happy to repeat these tests with different content and re-publish the results.