On 21st December 2015, Facebook made the announcement that it has stopped using Flash entirely for videos across the entire social network. This isn’t the first time that a company that holds a major stake on people’s activities on the Internet has announced that it is either removing support for Flash or removing it as a default option in favor of HTML5, a newer standard for multimedia on the web. YouTube did precisely this on 28 January of the same year.
Getting rid of a product that has been providing interactive web content for more than a decade can be seen as a very radical move. However, as with any massive move by several major companies, it’s a decision with many rational motives that went through an extensive analysis of the consequences. It’s time to explain why Flash is being dumped in favor of HTML5.
Reason Number One: Mobile Browsers
In 2010, Steve Jobs wrote a very controversial open letter in which he explained why the iPhone will never use Flash. Within the letter he cited the poor performance of Flash and its excessive resource usage that leads to high power consumption on mobile devices. Because of the power-hungry nature of this beast, its union with the mobile world just wasn’t meant to be. No mobile phone today can actually boast support for Flash, yet 97 percent of them are compatible with HTML5.
What this means for companies that want to cater to mobile devices is that if they ever want to display video on their screens, they will either have to abandon Flash entirely or develop their platform to be compatible with both Flash and HTML5 (raising the cost of maintenance for Web-based service providers).
Security in Flash Isn’t Tight
Flash has been notorious for security issues – so much so, that Mozilla has blocked the plugin entirely on June 2015 as a result of the negligence to fix all its publicly-known security vulnerabilities. In October of the same year, we saw an announcement on CNET describing a security flaw that has led to widespread phishing attacks on governments by using a vulnerability found in all versions of Flash. Perhaps the second most pressing reason why companies are so quick to abandon the technology has to do with the immense risks to corporate and personal security that keeping it would present. HTML5, on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from the same fate, yet it can do just about anything that Flash can do.
Abandoning Flash Benefits Desktop Users, Too
Aside from the other issues that Flash has (e.g. incompatibility with mobile browsers and rampant security problems), it also has the nature of being a rather resource-heavy technology. Since most of the work is done through heavily-bloated frameworks, it’s very difficult to justify keeping it when there are so many other applications that compete with it for computer resources. It’s more likely to have jittery playback through a Flash application than it is through HTML5. The result of the change in YouTube and many other sites is smoother video playback and faster-loading multimedia objects. This helps dampen the pressure on consumers to keep buying more powerful computers.
What do you think? Does Flash still even have a place in the world? Or should it go the way of the cassette tape? Leave your thoughts in a comment!