Tag Archives: Flash

The end of Flash — for real this time

We’ve been hearing reports of Adobe Flash’s death for years. But it’s not over till Adobe says it is, and now Adobe has declared a termination date for Flash support.

Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.

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The decline and fall of Adobe Flash

It’s been a year since I last posted about Adobe Flash’s impending demise. Like everything else on the Internet, it won’t ever vanish completely, but its decline is accelerating.
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The end of Flash?

There’s a growing call to dump Adobe Flash. With alternatives based on HTML5 becoming standardized, many tech experts think a plugin that has often been a source of security holes is a liability.

Security reporter Brian Krebs has written several articles on Flash:

Browser plugins are favorite targets for malware and miscreants because they are generally full of unpatched or undocumented security holes that cybercrooks can use to seize complete control over vulnerable systems. The Flash Player plugin is a stellar example of this: It is among the most widely used browser plugins, and it requires monthly patching (if not more frequently).

It’s also not uncommon for Adobe to release emergency fixes for the software to patch flaws that bad guys started exploiting before Adobe even knew about the bugs.

In 2010, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter explaining why Apple hasn’t supported Flash on iOS:

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.

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Adobe getting out of Flash for mobile

Steve Jobs gets a posthumous victory as Adobe will not be developing Flash for mobile devices past version 11. Adobe states that:

HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms. We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers.

Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook. We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations.

Flash “vs.” HTML: the shadowboxing continues

The shadowboxing between Flash and HTML 5 is getting pretty serious. A lot of people are using “HTML 5 video” as a shorthand for “non-Flash video technologies which HTML 5 facilitates,” and Adobe is clearly worried.

An article by Justin Nichols regards HTML 5 and Flash as competitors, and that article is showing a solid five-star rating on feeds.adobe.com, though it isn’t written by an Adobe employee, so it probably expresses a view that’s popular at Adobe. It refers to Flash as a “platform,” and that may be the key point; there’s an unstated suggestion that it can’t just live inside standardized HTML elements. But if it can’t, we’re in for still more rounds of browser incompatibility. Just as “the end of history” when the Soviet empire collapsed was a delusion, the “end of the browser wars” is most likely another.

A New York Times article on the lack of Flash on the iPad is entertaining for its disclaimer at the bottom. The body of the article says:

But concerns over the lack of Flash in the iPad and iPhone may be short-lived. Many online video sites have been experimenting with a new Web language that can support video, called HTML5. Unlike Flash, which is a downloaded piece of software that can interact with a computer’s operating system, HTML5 works directly in a Web browser. And although this new video format does not work in all browsers, it will allow iPhone and iPad users to enjoy more Web-based video content.

Then in a correction it notes that that was wrong:

An article on Monday about the absence of the multimedia software Flash in Apple’s new iPad tablet computer referred incorrectly to the Web language HTML5. While HTML5 can support video, it is not itself a video format. The article also misstated the ownership of HTML5 patents. HTML5, like other versions of Hypertext Markup Language, is open source; it is not owned by a group of companies, including Apple.

Can I hope they learned their error by reading this blog? Probably not. Even the disclaimer isn’t completely right; HTML 5 is a specification, not a program, so it’s meaningless to call it “open source.” Some implementations of it are open source, and others aren’t.

Standardization of the means of embedding video is a good thing. If that has Adobe worried it will face competition, that’s a good thing too.

Flash “vs.” HTML? Not so.

CNET has a rather confused article titled “HTML vs. Flash: Can a turf war be avoided?” This is like asking whether a turf war can be avoided between mixing bowls and batter.

The article says: “Bruce Lawson, Web standards evangelist for browser maker Opera Software, believes HTML and the other technologies inevitably will replace Flash and already collectively are ‘very close’ to reproducing today’s Flash abilities.” Further on: “Perhaps the most visible HTML5 aspect is built-in support for audio and video.”

This is complete nonsense. HTML 5 does not include “built-in support” for video. All that it does is provide a standardized means for browsers to support it. The video and audio tags provide a standardized means of expressing video and audio content, but don’t define any means of interpreting the content. That’s left up to the browser, just as it is with HTML 4 with its lack of standardized media tags. The browser can support MPEG 4, Flash, Ogg, all of them, none of them, or something else entirely.

Perhaps author Stephen Shankland is thinking of a different issue. There are some Web pages whose content is made up entirely of Flash. If you bring them up on a browser where Flash support is lacking or disabled, you generally get a blank page, not even a clue about what’s wrong. This could be considered Flash vs. HTML competition, but it’s an area where Flash has no excuse for being there and deserves to be beaten. The appropriate use of Flash, to present animation and video, is actually better supported by HTML 5 than by earlier versions, and the idea that the technologies compete is meaningless.