Flash is just another legacy media player following the slow decline towards irrelevance.
Do you remember when everyone had to install RealPlayer to get streaming audio to work? And how Real abused their position by shovelling unwanted software and intrusive updates along with RealPlayer—to the extent that the BBC had negotiated their own less-invasive build of RealPlayer to avoid subjecting the innocent public to the regular version? And how we were all so happy not to have to use it any more?
Where’s RealPlayer now? I can’t remember the last time I used it or installed it. It’s just another piece of dead proprietary software. And good riddance!
And so we’re beginning to arrive at a situation where Flash authors are, for the first time, confronted with a situation where Flash isn’t in a position of unanimous support: the proportion of users without Flash support is growing, and it’s growing quite quickly. From a business perspective, there is a tipping point at which you have to make a decision, based on the numbers.
I’d go further.
I’ve been using FlashBlock (on Firefox and, more recently, Chrome) for several months. This replaces embedded Flash with a placeholder; on clicking the placeholder, the Flash is restored to the page.
As a result, I’ve only seen Flash I really want to see. And this, it seems, is not very much at all.
Adobe’s Linux support for Flash has never been great—in fact, it’s seldom even reached basic competence—but when the plugin was recently revealed to be vulnerable yet again—this time, to remote code execution on every platform it runs on—they threw in the towel entirely, and withdrew the 64-bit Linux plugin.
This left me with three options:
- Continue to use the vulnerable plugin;
- Use a wrapper to get the 32-bit plugin working; or
- Uninstall Flash entirely.
The months of running with FlashBlock gave me the confidence to choose the third option.
And do you know what? I’m really happy not having Flash. Missing out on gaudy advertising or poorly-implemented ‘rich’ typography or flashturbated marketing sites is a bonus.
In fact, all Flash is really actually useful for is as a media player. But the major video hosting sites—such as YouTube and Vimeo—have HTML5 video versions of most content, and for the odd YouTube videos that isn’t available as HTML5, youtube-dl does a fine job. I’ve got my own solution for the iPlayer.
For ad-hoc video hosting, it’s often possible to grab the video filename out of the HTML and download it. And if not, well, it tends not to be that important.
I’ve been running without Flash at home for a month or so now, and I’m quite happy that way.
Now, if only the BBC would stop trying to extend life support to this dying patient (as they ended up doing for RealPlayer back in the day), we could get on with burying it.