All Eyes on HTML5 as Mobile Flash Fades to Black
The Linux world looked ahead to a future without mobile flash -- some with joy, others not so much. "Flash was potentially great technology, but Adobe messed it up by keeping it as a moving target and never getting it right," said blogger Robert Pogson. Blogger hairyfeet, on the other hand, sees a darker future for content in which freedoms are further restricted.
11/17/11 5:00 AM PT
If ever there was an announcement to get tongues wagging in the Linux blogosphere and beyond, it was the news that Adobe will stop developing Flash for mobile devices.
That, of course, is just what was announced last week, and the wagging hasn't stopped ever since.
Dubbed "Story of the Week" on the Financial Times Tech Hub blog, the topic has been the focus of conversation on forums far and wide, not to mention the dominant topic of discussion in the Linux blogosphere's own Mealy Apple cafe.
Linux Girl was there, Quick Quotes Quill at the ready.
A 'Closed Source Tumor'
"Flash has been on the way out for a while now," offered Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland.
Not only that, but "the end of this closed source tumor is fantastic news," Hoogland opined. "The fact that HTML5 is taking over this department is a clear sign that when given a fair chance, open standards will always proliferate over closed and locked-down ones.
"Shoot -- even Microsoft is saying HTML5 is the future!" Hoogland added.
'No Way to Make Friends'
"Yes, its days are numbered, but HTML5 is looking good," agreed blogger Robert Pogson.
"Flash was potentially great technology, but Adobe messed it up by keeping it as a moving target and never getting it right," Pogson asserted. "What's with having defective versions out for 64bit and GNU/Linux for the longest time? That was no way to make friends."
Indeed, "Adobe fired the wrong people," opined consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack, referring to the 750 staff members Adobe announced it would be laying off. "It isn't the programmer's fault things are a mess -- it's the fault of management who can't decide on a direction and stick with it."
In any case, "now we have to figure out a way to clear up the mess of sites on the Web using Flash," Pogson said. "At one point, nearly 90 percent of the sites I visited used Flash. It was a pain. Now, Flash will be the IE6-like legacy of websites for years to come."
'A Bad Way to Handle the Transition'
In fact, "a good portion of the legacy Web is, and will always be, on Flash," agreed Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.
"Many websites will not convert their content to newer standards," he explained. "With the death of the Adobe Flash Player plug-in for mobile browsers, mobile devices will never be fully backward-compatible.
"I do not see anything good about this," he added. "Having a device compatible with all content is a good thing."
In short, "I do not lament the death of Flash," Lim concluded. "The transition from Flash to HTML5 was inevitable, but this was really a bad way to handle the transition."
'A Blight on the Web'
Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza is "slightly surprised to see this happen now, but ultimately not shocked or amazed to see it happen at all," he told LinuxInsider.
"Flash has been a blight on the Web in many ways all along, but it's not clear that the competition won't suffer the same fate of a thousand security holes," Espinoza pointed out. "WebGL, in particular, has been fingered as a likely path for exploits of your graphics drivers.
"It will also be particularly telling when we discover which solution for DRM major studios turn to now that Flash is in full recession," he added. "I fear that it will be Microsoft's."
'Adobe Is Just Using This Opportunity'
Adobe is "probably the first major software producer to realize that we're heading into the 'desktop on a tablet' wars, and that HTML5 doesn't endanger Flash," suggested Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site.
"HTML5 applications are much slower, and if you're a game publisher or other for-profit developer, HTML5 exposes much more of your source to the competition," Hudson pointed out. "Adobe is just using this opportunity to create a new line of developer tools while pushing current developers towards Adobe Air and Flash3D, and cutting costs."
The desktop is dying, Hudson added, "but it's going to come back in the most unexpected place," she predicted. "With cheap Amazon tablets already eating into their market share, other tablets will need to continue to add more capabilities.
"This will culminate in tablets providing the whole desktop experience on any device with a large enough screen," she predicted. "The current 'app-centric' implementations will no longer be enough to move hardware at anything but bargain basement prices."
'Microsoft Is the First to Get It'
Strange as it may seem, in fact, "Microsoft is the first to 'get it' by providing both environments in their next OS," Hudson asserted. "While a certain Linux distro fiddles with the user interface to 'go after the tablet market,' Microsoft will give people the best of both worlds, just like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups."
Android tablets, meanwhile, are "going to have to go the same route or bleed market share," she predicted. "Fortunately for Android, Linux can already run an assortment of desktop software such as LibreOffice, multiple browsers with Flash, and Flash games without a browser using Flash Player for Linux."
As for the iPad, "all this exposes what many of us originally said was the biggest weakness of the iPad: it doesn't run atop OS X," she added. "Getting a desktop-like experience on the iPad is going to be tough; having to add a compatibility layer for old iOS apps is going to suck battery life, and one key Apple advantage is the long battery life of iOS-based tablets."
So, in the end, "anyone who wants to develop or run Flash on the desktop or in the browser will still be able to -- unless they're running an iPad -- but I think both Adobe and the Flash development community will be able to console themselves with 'only' an eventual 80 to 90 percent market share on tablets," Hudson predicted.
'Like a Drunk at a Free Bar'
In fact, the day will come when the FOSS community looks back on Flash with fondness, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider.
"While flash would play SD video nicely without hardware acceleration even on a 1.8 Ghz Sempron, the new HTML V5 is a pig that frankly sucks resources like a drunk at a free bar and will get worse not better," hairyfeet explained.
Meanwhile, "your old pals at Apple, since they rule the buzzworld thanks to iShiny, will make sure that it will NEVER be Theora NOR WebM, so they will get together with MSFT and force the 'standard' to be H.264, which of course unless you are ready to break out your checkbooks won't be legally available to Linux or FOSS users," he added. "And of course your old pals at the MPAA certainly aren't going to allow their precious content to run on an unsecured player."
'Not So Good for the Four Freedoms'
So, "working with Apple, Google -- whom I predict will lock up Android 'for security reasons' -- and MSFT, they will come up with the 'HTML V5 Secure Content spec,' which will work on OS X, iOS, and anything by MSFT, because both OSes allow kernel level DRM," hairyfeet said.
"Guess who doesn't have and doesn't allow kernel level DRM? That would be YOU!" he pointed out. "Google will just sign the NDA and get the kernel DRM put into Android and lock it down with code signing. This will be great for Google as it will give them more control of the Android ecosystem, not so good for the four freedoms."
In the end, then, Flash will be replaced by "something that sucks more power, will mean more machines have to be tossed because they won't run it, will equal less battery life, will use a codec that has so much more patents it isn't even funny, will allow the big three to lock you even further out of the loop, and you call THIS progress?" hairyfeet concluded. "It's a shame that sometimes folks just don't see the train heading their way until it runs them down."
'I Am Underwhelmed'
Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, isn't losing any sleep over the situation, however.
"I am rather underwhelmed," Travers told Linux Girl.
"Flash is dying because you can do a lot in HTML5 and CSS that you used to need Flash to do," he explained. "The market has eroded underneath it. This means that HTML has substantially replaced Flash as a good side. On the other hand, HTML has substantially replaced Flash.
"Really the only thing it will mean is that no plugin will be required for much content that used to be done in Flash," Travers predicted.