How Security Flaws, HTML5 Sent Adobe Flash Into Decline

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2016-05-17
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    How Security Flaws, HTML5 Sent Adobe Flash Into Decline
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    How Security Flaws, HTML5 Sent Adobe Flash Into Decline

    Google's announcement that it will start to blacklist Flash in its Chrome browser is just the latest step in the long decline of the multimedia software.
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    What Made Flash So Popular?
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    What Made Flash So Popular?

    Adobe's Flash became a hit on the Internet in the late-1990s. The technology offered an easy-to-use interface for developers to enliven Websites with graphics and animation. Better yet, the technology provided a backbone for interactive entertainment, including browser-based games. Flash, in other words, was what the Internet needed at that time to get past so-called "Web 1.0." It just couldn't quite hold up over the long term.
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    Security Problems Get Out of Control
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    Security Problems Get Out of Control

    Security has been the biggest issue with Flash. The technology became a favorite target for malicious hackers, and the result was an extremely high number of zero-day vulnerabilities. To its credit, Adobe has gotten better at finding issues and fixing issues, but it's fighting a never-ending battle as hackers continue to find new ways to exploit Flash vulnerabilities.
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    Performance, Battery Life Were Common Concerns
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    Performance, Battery Life Were Common Concerns

    Another frequent complaint about Flash is that it puts a strain on the performance and battery life of many PCs and mobile devices. Flash has for years been cited for sucking power out of devices due to inefficiencies in its code, and software developers, PC makers and mobile device designers have all derided the technology for that. Those issues, coupled with the security problems, caused outcry in the 2000s, leading to the fallout we're seeing now.
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    Apple Was the First to Ban Flash
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    Apple Was the First to Ban Flash

    No one was a bigger critic of Flash than co-founder Steve Jobs. He issued a public letter in 2010, banning Flash from the company's iOS platform. He argued at the time that Flash was insecure and caused too many performance problems and said better alternatives were available. Since then, Flash has been blocked on all iOS devices.
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    The Surprisingly Fast Rise of HTML5
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    The Surprisingly Fast Rise of HTML5

    The better alternative Jobs was talking about in his attack on Flash was HTML5. That technology, which has been adopted on the Web in considerably less time than some had imagined, has effectively become the replacement for Flash. That's not only because of the security vulnerabilities of Flash, but also because it's far more efficient on different device types. Those two issues alone have allowed it to be rapidly embraced by the developer community.
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    Adobe Acknowledges the Issues
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    Adobe Acknowledges the Issues

    Even Adobe has been forced to acknowledge that perhaps Flash isn't what's best for Internet users nowadays. The company has publicly supported HTML5 and, in 2011, said that it was abandoning mobile platforms altogether to focus on the Flash alternative. Since then, Adobe has encouraged Internet users and developers to move to HTML5, citing its superiority over Flash
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    The YouTube Changeover Was Troublesome
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    The YouTube Changeover Was Troublesome

    One of the most important moments in Flash's history was when YouTube, one of the most popular video platforms in the world, decided it was time to move on from Flash. YouTube was an early tester of HTML5, and it officially started running its videos on this platform last year. Once a top Web destination such as YouTube stops supporting Flash, its future is bleak, to say the least.
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    The Industry Turns Its Back on Flash
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    The Industry Turns Its Back on Flash

    YouTube and Apple aren't the only companies to have turned their backs on Flash. Microsoft made its position known in 2012 by abandoning its support for Flash plug-ins. Other prominent browsers, including Mozilla's Firefox and Opera, have in one way or another stopped supporting Flash or encouraged people to use other platforms. It's clear that the Web community sees little future in the Adobe technology.
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    Finally, Chrome Says 'Goodbye'
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    Finally, Chrome Says 'Goodbye'

    Google has slowly but surely been turning its back on Flash. The company first stopped displaying Flash-based ads and now says that it will end support for Flash Websites, unless a user specifically asks to see them. While it has whitelisted just 10 sites for Flash support, chances are, in the coming years, even those sites will lose support. In Google's mind, apparently, Flash is dead.
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    Yet It Still Lives On
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    Yet It Still Lives On

    Despite the industry's stance on Flash, there are no signs that it'll actually "die" anytime soon. According to data collected by W3Techs, which analyzes Flash usage trends, 8.6 percent of Websites are still using the technology. While that's down from more than 11 percent a year ago, that figure still represents millions of Websites. So, while Google's move might be another nail in Flash's coffin, it's by no means the final nail.
 

Google is the latest Web company to drive another nail into the coffin of Adobe Flash. The search giant announced on May 16 that it will start to blacklist Flash in its Chrome browser and will allow users to run Flash when they go to just 10 of the most heavily visited Websites, including Yahoo and Facebook. The decision is part of a broader push by Google and other Web giants to move away from the buggy Adobe platform to get Web developers and Internet users accustomed to living in a world without Flash. Google's decision is significant not just because of its hugely influential position in Web search and advertising. The Chrome browser is currently the most popular in the world, holding a 42 percent share of the browser installed base. It's not so surprising that Google wants Chrome users to move beyond Flash, given the steady adoption of the HTML5 markup language as a replacement. But it represents the latest step in the long decline of the Flash multimedia software that has allowed Web developers to easily bring graphics, animation, video, audio and more to Web pages since the 1990s. But the times and the technology are changing. Read on to learn more about Flash's rise to prominence and its gradual decline.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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