5 Reasons Why HTML5 Has Finished Flash

As major browsers depreciate support for Adobe Flash Player, in favour of native video playback in HTML5, content providers still using Flash would be well advised to make haste with their transition plans.

But the transition to HTML5 is not just seen as an increasingly necessary move, it’s also a smart move for content providers and video consumers. HTML5 delivers a secure and enjoyable cross-platform experience for now and in the future. Here are 5 reasons why HTML5 has finished Flash.

HTML5’s Enhanced Security

External plugins create opportunities for vulnerabilities that are out of the control of browser developers. Last year, Mozilla temporarily blocked Flash outright in Firefox to protect its users from a security issue with the plugin. Only last month, Google’s Threat Analysis Group publically disclosed a major vulnerability in Flash which could see hackers taking remote control over Windows OS machines. Dropping the plugin avoids this avenue of vulnerabilities issues altogether.

Improved Performance

Plugins can also create unexpected stability issues. Most internet users can probably remember a time Flash had crashed, interrupting their experience and forcing a page reload. Having playback functionality run natively in HTML5, crashes become less common. A recent figure from Mozilla showing the plugin crash rate in Firefox dropped since both YouTube and Facebook switched from Flash video to HTML5 highlights how often plugin crashes were occurring.

Read more on browsers pulling unstable plugins

In addition to this: Flash content typically carries with it an extra page-load footprint leading to longer load times. Flash is a power drain compared to HTML5. In an era where battery life is on many consumer’s minds, reducing power consumption is a constant goal and moving away from Flash helps to improve efficiency. The constant inconvenience of keeping Flash up to date will also soon be a thing of the past.

Adobe Flash Plugin Crash in Firefox

Source: Reducing Adobe Flash Usage in Firefox, Mozilla Blog, 2016

HTML5: An Open Standard

Even in the golden era of Flash, days where security and performance of the plugin were far from users’ minds, its critics lamented such important software in the fabric of the web being under “vendor lock in”. Today, where Flash’s vulnerabilities affect the security, reputability and profit margins of Adobe’s partners, these voices are becoming much louder.

Steve Jobs speaking on Flash

“Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs,” he said. “But the mobile era is about low-power devices, touch interfaces, and open web standards — all areas where Flash falls short.” Steve Jobs, Former Apple CEO, speaking in 2010.

Tristan Nitot speaking on Flash

“There’s someone in the middle deciding whether users should see your content. If Adobe or Microsoft [referring to Silverlight] decides to compete with you and you’re using their technology, you cannot compete.” Tristan Nitot, Mozilla Europe founder, speaking in 2008.

Open standards allow both vendors and developers to contribute to their evolution, in the case of HTML5 driving adoption and broadening the number of trialed use cases for the standard among the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) communities.

This brings us ever closer to the concept of “write once, run anywhere” first associated with the arrival of Java in the mid-1990s for development of cross-device, cross-browser applications and video playback.

Flash Device Compatibility

As we talk about cross-device and cross-browser applications, we should remind ourselves of Apple’s refusal to run Flash on iOS powered smart devices including iPhones and iPads, with Steve Jobs citing many of the other reasons explained here in “leaving the past behind”. Apple have committed instead towards HTML5, announcing compatibility for iOS devices with the release of iOS native browser Safari 8 in 2014. However, there is still some way to go for Apple to support native DRM in HTML5 with EMEs, for example, with MPEG-DASH.

Google have also shunned Adobe Flash Player, deciding to withdraw Flash for Android OS from their Google Play store. Should a user still want to use Flash on Android, they need to take complex steps to manually downloa and install an archived version on their device.

Google withdraws Flash support

No further support for Flash, shortly before Flash was pulled from Google Play

In response to the joint verdict against Flash from Apple and Google, Adobe didn’t counter attack, instead deciding a year on from Jobs’s declaration that it would abandon in-browser Flash development on all mobile devices.

But it’s not just smart devices where Flash development has stalled. Linux devices have had a tumultuous relationship with Flash, with Adobe ending development in 2012 and announcing support would end in 2017. This remained the case until this September when it announced Flash for Linux would return in a stripped down form with no future feature development. As such Flash on Linux will remain a legacy product, inferior to current and future versions of Flash on desktop devices.

As Flash continues to be marginalised and lose support, HTML5 has been adopted by major video content distributors including YouTube, Facebook, and Netflix; and favoured over Flash by all major browsers.

Read more on browsers pulling proprietary plugins

Futureproof Technology

Experiments in HTML5 are already enhancing the web where Flash had gotten stuck. For example, where search optimization has become core thinking in Web 3.0, crawlers are unable to see content of Flash videos. A HTML5 project for Pharrell Williams’ single ‘Happy’ demonstrates SEO opportunities through tagging and metadata.

Live streaming video, a natural progression from streaming recorded video, is also an area where widely known brands have flocked from Flash to HTML5 including YouTube, Twitch, and the BBC to HTML5 technology.

One test for Flash’s future has also been in the fields of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), enhanced 3D graphic modelling, and 360 video playback. Developers have released AR SDKs using Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR including D’Fusion and IN2AR; while Away3D, Stage3D and Flare3D are among the frameworks that enable 3D interactive graphics within animation projects including games such as Farmville and Cityville.

Until 2014 this looked promising for Flash, however Flare3D development has halted since then. D’Fusion and IN2AR have released SDKs utilizing tools and other programming languages that enable cross-platform compatibility, such as Unity3D. Stage3D and Away3D and similar engines for Adobe AIR/Flash face strong competition from WebGL, a plugin-less Javascript API using the HTML5 canvas element, with tremendous success (note that Microsoft do now support WebGL).

Flash and Silverlight

First They Came For Flash…

You can also find out more on how major browsers are depreciating Adobe Flash and other proprietary plugins in our ‘Gone In A Flash’ article.


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Mark Whiley

Mark Whiley
Communications and Events

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