Adobe to kill off Flash, which is good for developers and consumers

Adobe to kill off Flash, which is good for developers and consumers

Adobe has announced that it will kill off its popular yet much aligned Flash Media Player, phasing it out by 2020. The reason for the delay is to give customers – especially large organizations that are slow to make changes – and developers time to make adjustments.

Flash was introduced in 1994, when most people weren’t even using the internet. It was used on CD and DVD-based multimedia programs as well as those nascent websites that needed a way to display video, animation, audio and graphics.

The bad news is that Flash has shown itself to be insecure and unreliable. The good news is that there are now alternatives to Flash that developers are starting to deploy and, once Flash is finally dead, every developer will be forced to use a more reliable and secure platform.

In 2010, about a year before he died, Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs wrote a 1,700 word essay on why flash needed to go away.  He complained that it was 100 percent proprietary, which – he admitted – is also true for Apple’s operating systems. But, he added, “standards pertaining to the web should be open.”

Jobs also complained that Flash was not fully compatible with touch-screen devices like the iPhone and iPad. If that wasn’t enough, he derided Flash for its waste of battery life and reminded readers that “Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009.”  Jobs also pointed out that “Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.”

Jobs and Apple weren’t the only ones unhappy with Flash. Both Google and Microsoft started phasing it out as did many other developers. Still, there are times when you are required to have Flash installed to gain access to content on some web pages.

You don’t have to be as tech-savvy as Jobs to know that Flash is insecure. Anyone who uses it regularly has seen notices that their version isn’t up-to-date with the latest security patch. All software can be vulnerable to security flaws and it’s good when developers encourage or require updates to fix these flaws, but it shouldn’t happen nearly as often as it does with Flash.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to flash including Hypertext Markup Language 5 (HTML5) and technologies that work within HTML5 such as Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) and JavaScript. Although consumers ultimately wind up using these tools, they’re not anything that most of us need to know about. They are all basically web-languages or developer tools and the good news is that we don’t have to worry about them or, in most cases, install anything special. If all goes well, they should just work. Still, I think it’s nice to know at least the basics, so read on.

The most important element in this trio of tools is HTML5, approved in 2014, which is the latest version of the HTML language that’s already used on most web pages. But unlike earlier versions of HTML, the new one supports a variety of media including animation, video and music as well as the ability to build sophisticated applications that run in a browser.

Also, HTML5 isn’t proprietary, so developers don’t have to pay royalties, which can translate into lower costs for consumers as well. It’s also cross-platform, running on Windows, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android phones or tablets and also Chrome OS devices and, likely, whatever comes next. It should work with all browsers and it makes life easier for developers, because they have a consistent language to use and employ across devices and applications.

With HTML5, we should need fewer plug-ins, which means that our devices will run faster, use less energy and be less susceptible to security flaws.

While the end of Flash and standardization of HTML5 and other more modern technologies should improve our web experience, it won’t solve all problems. There will continue to be security challenges, especially as criminals learn to exploit HTML5 and other tools.

And, of course, just as it’s possible for an incompetent musician to make horrific noise with a finely turned instrument, HTML5 and every language that comes along won’t keep bad programmers from developing bad programs or websites.  For example, HTML5 makes it easier for web developers to automatically play audio when someone lands on their website. I know that works out well for advertisers who want to bombard us with their messages, but it’s one of the most annoying aspects of web surfing. Of course, that’s not a technology problem but a human one and there are technology solutions, including Apple’s decision to allow Safari users to block unwanted automatic audio.

Still, we’re making progress and –- once Flash is fully dead and buried, I think we can anticipate fewer crashes, better battery life and faster processing. Unless, as has sometimes been the case, something else comes along to slow things down.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Published at Thu, 27 Jul 2017 13:00:57 +0000