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'Click to Run': The Days of Flash

Are those days finally numbered?

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SAN JOSE (Rixstep) — IT Corporations and users both are ganging up on Adobe's antiquated Flash software. Apple refuse to ship it anymore with their operating systems, refuse to run older buggier versions at all, and Google improved their Chrome interface (with at least version 18.0.1025.168) to allow running it only on demand.

The days of Flash may finally be numbered.

Purchased from Macromedia in April 2005 as part of a deal valued at $3.4 billion, Adobe Flash (it's a contraction of 'future' and 'splash' - 'spluture' didn't roll off the tongue) is today seen more and more as annoying and intrusive (with its ability to store and pass on special user-specific information) which gave rise to an entire industry devoted to defeating it, even as content providers worked harder to exploit it.

And it's been seen even more as a kludge of a tired old work horse that has seen its time come and go.

Steve Jobs famously castigated Flash, a move repeatedly applauded by this website. Apple refuse to run Flash on their mobile devices for obvious reasons and have not shipped it with their systems for almost two years.

Adobe Molasses

Flash technology was largely superseded years ago with the introduction of HTML5. Many websites known to be on technology's cutting edge have long since abandoned Flash in favour of HTML5.

Google also made an attempt to transition their YouTube to HTML5 and have been conducting a protracted 'beta programme' for some time now. And for a few months recently seemed to let everything at the site run as HTML5 instead.

The improvements were dramatic. What takes Flash minutes to load even on 'phat pipes' loads in seconds with HTML5.

But the content providers weren't happy. The open platform HTML5 doesn't offer the same opportunities to spy on and control site visitors as Adobe's closed platform Flash does. Google and YouTube reverted.

And for OS X?

Worst perhaps was the abysmal performance of Flash for users of Apple's OS X. Adobe have a notorious propensity for not updating any products unless absolutely necessary as of last year. This basically falls in line with the 'Creative Suite' offerings over the years - not just 'Carbon' software (which was never anything but deprecated) but embedded prehistoric 'PEF' modules - something which perplexed the software community at large, as Apple had otherwise made the transition to OS X as painless a process as the industry's ever seen. (And yet Adobe users continued to pay for meaningless upgrades instead.)

Adobe's lack of attention to software quality based on the smaller market share plagued Apple users all along: Adobe Flash raced their CPUs, their fans, and with portable devices drained their batteries. All for a singularly dubious experience HTML5 accomplishes heaps better. (Adobe Flash and Apple's Safari make a singularly destructive combination.)

And then of course one has all the crashes. And where there be crashes, there also be hacks.

Corporate Confusion Vulnerability

The slings and arrows just keep on coming. Calling the latest flaw 'object confusion vulnerability', Adobe released yet another patch for Flash (bringing that version number up to the respectable and, believe it or not, are now touting that some of their security patches for Creative Suite apps will be made available for free.

But two days earlier Apple took the bold and drastic move of updating Safari to block old versions of Flash that simply wreak too much havoc.

OS X: How to Browse?

Apple's own Safari browser remains a kludge in its own right, a RAM/HDD glutton which along with footloose VM management can do wondrous things to an otherwise aesthetically brilliant surfing experience.

Google Chrome may not be improving by leaps and bounds but it's improving. 'Teh Googels' finally figured out how to get Chrome's windows to 'maximise' correctly - not a mean feat and something that still bakes Walt Mossberg's noodle. Chrome 18.0.1025.168's performance is better, plugins can be run in sandboxes, and Flash can be compartmentalised to run only on demand.

The days of Flash are finally numbered.

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