It May Soon Be Time To Say Goodbye To Flash

FlashArticles about Flash usually start by bemoaning the negative impact it has had on the web. I don’t want to do that because, in its day, Flash wasn’t so bad. If you remember the early web, with its blinking headers and tiny images, you’ll remember how impressive Flash seemed as a technology. The jump from plain-old website to interactive games was awesome. I know plenty of developers who love Flash, and who built a career on it. And I know many web users who have spent thousands of happy hours playing games and watching videos powered by Flash.

Unfortunately, I also know people who have been hacked because of Flash’s dire security. Most of those old-timey Flash developers have moved on to better things — HTML5 can do much of what we used to rely on Flash for.

And then there’s mobile, which was never a friend of Flash. If your phone did run Flash, the performance was poor and your battery life ebbed away before your eyes. If you were using an iPhone, Flash wasn’t even an option. Recognizing the way the tide had turned, Adobe retired its mobile Flash player.

Flash was, in its time, an innovative technology, but its time is done. Mozilla, one of the most surprising dissenters in the “Flash is bad for you and must be blocked!” movement has announced that it will begin to block Flash in its FireFox browser. The introduction of Flash blocking will be gradual, targeted at popular sites using Flash for tracking and fingerprinting, but by this time next year, all Flash will be blocked on all sites. To use Flash, a visitor will have to click on it, and the chances of them clicking on Flash advertising is fairly low.

The other major browser developers are well-ahead of Firefox where Flash-blocking is concerned. Google Chrome started blocking Flash last year, and will expand its blocking over the next few months with the exception of a short whitelist of sites that make heavy use of Flash (which includes YouTube, of course). The next release of Safari will block all Flash by default, without making any exceptions. The upcoming update to Microsoft’s Edge will also block Flash.

It’s unlikely browser developers will completely remove Flash, or make it impossible to watch Flash videos for many years to come. Many sites and their users depend on Flash.

So Flash, and it’s legacy of security problems, will be around for a long time yet, but I don’t think anyone will start large Flash-based projects any more. Flash was an amazing technology for its time, but the writing is on the wall and even those of us who think fondly of Flash have to admit that it’s time to start to say goodbye.

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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