We are considering adding functionality to our online application which will require the user to upgrade their Flash player from version 9 to version 11. We have measured and found out that almost all our users have Flash player 9 or higher installed, but a surprisingly low number has version 11.

I want to know what users do when confronted with the request to upgrade. Do they simply upgrade or does this form a barrier to use our application?

Does anyone know of any studies or research on this subject? How can I find out or research for myself?


Great answers so far!

Some aditional information to clarify the situation: all our users are private users, not business users, so it doesn't depend on a systems administrator.

also our users will get a message (image below) from the flash player itself, so the application won't run with a lower version of flash.

enter image description here

finally, a large portion of our users are returning customers and they might have saved some work.

  • Well you've got 51% of marketshare out of the box (or you should have close). As for whether they update I'm not 100% sure. It is a barrier, but I'm not sure how significant of one.
    – Ben Brocka
    May 1, 2012 at 15:33
  • As someone who's worked at a helpdesk before, I can tell you it is about exactly what you're seeing: 50/50. Some IT administrators will not allow the updates if there's a strict policy in place, some will force push the updates, and some will leave it to choice. I get annoyed seeing those adobe updates all the time, but I personally always do it for fear of security holes with the previous version.
    – GotDibbs
    May 1, 2012 at 15:40
  • 5
    I can't speak specifically to Flash, but if all users wanted to / were able to update their various web software then nobody would be using IE7 or below, and we know that isn't the case.
    – JonW
    May 1, 2012 at 15:48
  • 2
    Flash 11 has memory-management issues and no hardware acceleration, and there are plenty of instances online where a downgrade to Flash 10 is recommended. May 1, 2012 at 16:00
  • 1
    If you're thinking of adding features, consider also using that as a point of departure from depending on a 3rd party, poorly supported, poorly implemented browser plugin.
    – DA01
    May 2, 2012 at 15:13

3 Answers 3


If you are willing to trust Adobe's self reporting, they have their own statistics on market penetration of Flash versions. A little math on these numbers would give you numbers on how often users upgrade. For example, they released 10.1 in June, and by December (6 months) they had 87% penetration in the US. In May they released 10.3, and they claim 40% pentration by June. Looking at their statistics and doing a little napkin math, I get a result of about 1/4 of outdated users upgrade to the newest version every month, with double the normal amount upgrading the first month of a release.

So if you want to avoid requiring a particular Flash version until, say, 90% market penetration then the question becomes 'How many times do I multiple 3/4 before the result is under 1/10?'

1 month: 3/4 * 3/4 = 9/16 (56% not upgraded, double normal amount in the first month)
2 months: 9/16 * 3/4 = 27/64 (42% not upgraded)
3 months: 27/64 * 3/4 = 81/256 (32% not upgraded)
4 months: 24%
5 months: 18%
6 months: 13%
7 months: 10%

But again... this is napkin math based on self reporting by Adobe. Take it with a grain of salt.

  • Nice answer. Good to see some actual statistics from the horses mouth (as it were). It's probably more accurate than just citing a random blog somewhere.
    – JonW
    May 1, 2012 at 18:12

Personally, I do the same as Matt Rockwell. I let it nag until i'm reminded and i have a free moment.

I would suggest placing some kind of banner or other notification suggesting users upgrade their flash player within your application.

We have upgraded our application. To experience all of the new functionality, we suggest you update your Flash player to the most recent version [link]

Unless your application completely depends on 11, in which case you should have some overlay or other view that requires users to upgrade to continue to use the application.


As a person with access to a large corporation analytics most end users don't upgrade flash that quickly/at all. Mind you there is prolly dozens or reasons why.

If you find that users are not upgrading simply add some form of message in advance of your upgrade informing them that they will need to (Of course provide a link to the most current version). After your upgrade make sure another message appears to those who have not yet upgraded stating the upgrade is required to restore functionality.

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