Gone in a Flash, but is this any better?

By | February 14th, 2016

We all know the drill: We browse our favorite websites, download videos, and play video games. And inevitably, Adobe Flash Player (aka Shockwave Flash) comes up.

Adobe Flash is one of the most hated plug-ins on the web. Nearly everyone agrees.

That’s because those Flash-based apps are annoying. They crash our applications, slow down our devices, and even when they run successfully, they expose us to security failures.

Back in 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that Apple’s products would not support Flash because it has “reliability, security and performance” issues, and “the avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content.”

Six years later, the tech world is making his words reality. Flash is going away. (Do I hear you cheering?)

A number of technology companies are joining Apple in phasing out or eliminating Flash. Even Adobe is distancing itself from its Flash Player, rebranding it as “Flash Professional” and “Animate CC.”

Google recently announced that starting June 30, its Google Display Network and DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DCDM) platforms will begin phasing out the use of Flash for static ads (video ads will not be affected), and will completely ban the use of Flash on all its ad and video networks, including AdWords and YouTube, by 2017. Last September, Google updated its Chrome web browser to block Flash ads by default.

Microsoft is also abandoning Flash in its development plans for its Edge web browser, the default browser in Windows 10. This year Mozilla is also abandoning support for a number of plug-in applications in its Firefox browser, although it will continue to support Flash. (For how long?) And Facebook is dropping Flash for its video delivery. Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, “wants to set a date to kill Flash.”

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It didn’t help that last October, Adobe discovered “a critical vulnerability” in Flash and promised a fix. And more recently, Adobe patched 22 critical security updates affecting the Flash Player plug-in on Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11 and Linux, as well as other browsers and desktop operating systems.

No doubt about it. Everybody in the tech world hates Flash, as do the rest of us. So where will we be without it?

All the above companies are encouraging or requiring the use of HTML5, a state-of-the-art version of HyperText Markup Language (the language used to program websites and online applications), which will contain new features designed to directly enable the use of multimedia and graphical content in web applications, without requiring accompanying plug-in applications.

But don’t uninstall your Adobe Flash Player quite yet. HTML5 still has some issues of its own. For example:

  • 75% of web videos are viewed using Flash (YouTube was solely Flash until adding HTML5 video playback in 2011)
  • 98% of enterprises rely on the Flash Player
  • More than 3 million developers use Flash technology
  • 85% of the most-visited websites use Flash in one form or other

Also, HTML5 is not yet a “mature technology” (that is, it hasn’t been around long enough that all the initial bugs in it have been found and removed), and unlike Flash, different browsers handle HTML5-based applications differently. And offsite storage is not always available with HTML5 as yet.

But with so many technology companies switching to HTML5, it seems likely that HTML5 will mature and become the standard for web-based graphic and video applications, and our computers will operate speedily and securely.

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And the ghost of Steve Jobs can find some peace.

Is HTML5 an improvement over Flash for you?

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  • Bill___A

    Time to get rid of Java too.

  • Alan Gore

    HTML5 is technically better than Flash, but why don’t all browsers have the ability to disable autoplaying videos? As it stands now, the only way to get videos to play-on-click is to use Chrome.

  • llandyw

    Firefox lets you set add-ons to activate only when you say so, and that includes Flash. I see the activate request on a daily basis, but most of the time only read what went along with the video. So, it’s not only Chrome.

  • KarlaKatz

    Now, I am confused. All this time, I thought Adobe was a house in Alamogordo, and Java was a fancy name for coffee. Le sigh.

  • AAGK

    This is a great article. In 2010, it was a constant source of frustration that I couldn’t access “Flash” sites on my iPhone. Now a notice of a flash enabled site indicates it’s a dinosaur and probably not worth perusing. I am glad it is officially done. I suppose one could view this as Apple taking over the world, but it appears that its concerns about Adobe were legitimate. Either way, I am glad.

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