The venerable Macromedia Flash definitely made a significant impact in technology over the last decade; where would Internet advertising or browser-based casual gaming be without it? But 15 years into the 21st Century, what was once state of the art is now acutely obsolete. This point was made obvious by Firefox recently disabling the Flash plug-in from its browser due to security issues.
With the technically superior HTML5 standard now seeing wider adoption, the end of Flash is growing more and more imminent. So as the sun slowly sets on the technology, let’s take a closer look at its approaching demise and what it all means.
Flash is a Resource Hog Not Suitable for Mobile
The death knell for Flash first began to ring in 2010 when Apple’s Steve Jobs famously blocked the technology from the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, citing its proprietary nature and the fact Flash’s appetite for resources made it unsuitable for mobile devices. Much controversy arose from Jobs’ decision, but later on even Google discovered Flash simply wouldn’t work reliably on its own Android operating system.
As more users moved to mobile devices from the desktop for their casual Internet usage, Flash’s overall decline began to exacerbate. Consider the following scenario: if you are on a mobile device hoping to check the Internet speed of a public WiFi hotspot before streaming some video, are you going to try and perform a Flash-based speed test? Probably not, when a superior HTML5 test runs perfectly on your smartphone.
Security Issues May Be the Final Nail in the Coffin
Recently, security issues affecting the Flash plug-in for desktop users has led to many industry pundits hoping for its demise. In early August, hackers bought ads on Yahoo’s advertising network, leveraging the security hole in Flash to execute malicious code on an unsuspecting user’s desktop. This is only the latest cyber security incident involving the plug-in — Google’s own ad network was targeted earlier this year — leading many tech gurus to recommend always keeping Flash disabled in your browser.
Fortunately, keeping Flash disabled doesn’t adversely affect your Internet browsing experience. Some browsers even allow a setting where it asks permission to enable Flash on a site by site basis — suitable when you are on a trusted website. You’ll notice your computer operating more smoothly instead of the rainbow-colored fan blowing a gasket as the plug-in attempts to run advertising from several networks simultaneously.
YouTube now uses HTML5 as its primary streaming video technology. More companies are following this trend. Even with Flash disabled, some advertisements do run, but they do so smoothly and securely. There remains little doubt — Flash’s days are numbered.