Today there are announcements going around about both Google and Firefox and Facebook saying they are going to block Flash from working, with Facebook saying that Adobe should hurry up and let us all know when Flash will die. Being that they have been asking that since Apple blocked all access to Flash, it’s a good question.
If we think about what Flash used to be used for mostly, it was ads and gaming. Then they got things figured out for VOD and even video with alpha. It was cool times. Then they blew everything else out of the water when they got live video and audio working and there became a huge market for building live applications. That’s where we came in, around 13 years ago now. Up until recently, Flash has been king of multimedia delivery within the browser. To this day, nothing comes close to it’s capabilities. Unfortunately Flash’s reach is dwindling and today’s announcement doesn’t help that at all.
To be honest, Adobe has really slacked off for about 5 years. Don’t get me wrong, they are constantly working on updates and putting in cool features, but some bugs have persisted for years, and yes, the security aspect is always huge with Adobe being behind the 8 ball too often. Thanks to the hacking group getting hacked and Flash’s long time vulnerabilities being made public, Adobe is again under the gun and it’s more serious as Flash doesn’t have the following it once had, nor the reliance on it.
Does all of this mean that Flash should die? I don’t believe so. I believe Adobe should get itself together and make some big decisions to go big or get out for sure. There are still a lot of companies that make their business on the Flash player. Just about any large live communication platform that works in the browser is dependent on the Flash Player, nothing comes close to the capabilities it offers. Yet.
If we look at what WebRTC can not do yet, you’ll find centralized security, live moderation of sessions with centralized communication and video/audio recording to be at the forefront. While there are some that are working quite hard on making that happen, the tech is still in it’s infancy. None of the browser companies are working well together to get some video and audio standards happening that everybody supports yet. It’s taking time. Until then, the only option is Flash in the browser or a dedicated application for PC, Mac and mobile. Either way, you’re building something you plan to replace. If you need it in the browser then Flash is it. It plays well with many socket servers, most popularly Wowza Streaming Engine and Adobe’s Media Server, there are others.
As for the gaming and ads, it seems that web based games have fallen to the wayside as mobile kicks in and people just download app after app with just as low quality graphics and gameplay as their predecessors. Ads are gifs again and you can’t block them, unlike dedicated plugins that would stop Flash fast. GIF animations are overloading the internet again, welcome to the 90s! HTML video is taking over and getting played automatically so you have to watch stuff. While it’s a good thing to have options and other technologies growing, the growing pains from that are time consuming and expensive.
Either way we’re looking at another step down the ladder for Flash, mainly because Flash is not well maintained from a security perspective and Adobe has not provided well enough assurances that it will be. Every company that uses Flash today is having another think about what their options are. If you’re doing games, VOD, ads, then yes, moving away from Flash is an option. Live video with advanced capabilities, mainly recording and central transcoding, there are no good options yet.
Update July 15/2015 Adobe was fast and updated Flash so quickly that Firefox is back to enabling the plugin by default. Got the “Flash must die” crowd all excited again though, we’ll see what happens. Again, for many things Flash isn’t relevant but for quite a few high end video with advanced capabilities, it is. Could be part of a toolset, doesn’t need to die.