Maybe the only thing more irritating than visiting a website just to find that the video you were hoping to view is only available if you update your Adobe Flash Player (again) is the desktop pop-up reminder telling you that you need to update your software…again. Is there an option to remind me never?
Fortunately, one of those annoyances should be resolved as Adobe is finally breaking up with Flash (sorry, you’ll probably be seeing those software update pop-ups for a very long time). In an announcement straight from the source, it looks like this particular technology is destined to go the ways of Internet Explorer 6. RIP.
Following the lead of Chrome, Microsoft, Firefox, and Safari who have already been automatically blocking Flash, Adobe is planning to completely eradicate support in the coming years. “Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to new open formats,” said Adobe.
But why do people despise Adobe Flash so much, in fact, that there’s even an Occupy Flash movement that aims to indefinitely “rid the world of the Flash Player plugin”? Even Steve Jobs wrote a short manifesto on his distaste for Adobe Flash, asserting that it would not be allowed on any Apple products “based on technology issues” surrounding the controversies over it’s open/closed system status and access to the “full web.”
Of course, Flash’s general reliability, security, performance, and stagnant technological support were also major issues even back when Jobs voiced his opinion and stopped supporting it in 2010 — Flash has consistently been a piece of software that just could never meet everyone’s high standards. Undoubtedly, this has become even more apparent in the last seven years.
While in itself, Flash begging to install an update is surely aggravating to everyday users, more critical are concerns with security complications that have led way to crashing, hacking, and other vulnerabilities.
Not to mention, Flash is also a pain point for software testers. Flash is hard to test — it’s buggy, it doesn’t work on mobile devices, and it generally isn’t well supported anymore. The fewer people that use it, the better for testers; although a website being improved without Flash is something almost all of us can agree with.
However, because Flash is still sometimes used in browsers to show animation, videos, and games, when Flash support ceases, thousands of websites’ content will stop working if developers don’t prepare and adopt alternatives like HTML5, and someone will surely encounter that either testing or browsing.
Apple actually experienced this briefly when Jobs cut ties with Flash, but since it’s been resolved, all smartphones (Android followed suit in 2012) have been operating without the usability burden and without consumer complaint. We expect a similar outcome as browsers are cut off from supporting Flash and nudged to use the often preferred open standard HTML5. And, since we have three years of forewarning, everyone will take likely advantage of the opportunity to transition now, which would make testing a non-issue.
Ultimately, software teams will likely be as relieved as anyone else. Standardizing HTML5 means users won’t depend on flash, developers won’t build for flash, and testers won’t have to test on websites that use Flash. As of this year, only 6.3 percent of websites used Flash, so most users won’t even notice a change.
In the end, we can be sure of one thing: Occupy Flash members are probably thrilled.