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Linux Loses Flash Player - but Does Anyone Care?

By Katherine Noyes
Mar 1, 2012 5:00 AM PT

There's no denying that Adobe has been a fickle friend to Linux in recent times, as well as to mobile users in general.

Linux Loses Flash Player - but Does Anyone Care?

After all, not only did the company put the brakes on mobile Flash last year, but it also put Linux users on a roller-coaster ride for 64-bit Flash and it pulled the plug on AIR for Linux.

The latest affront? Coming soon, there will be no more standalone Flash Player for Linux. Instead, Linux users who want Flash will have to do it through Chrome -- unless, of course, they happen to choose from among numerous alternative players out there.

Is it the worst of times -- or the best of times? Or does it just not matter? In the Linux blogosphere, there's never any shortage of opinions.

'Adobe Is Throwing It Away'

"The appeal of Flash is cross-platform compatibility, and Adobe is throwing it away," lamented Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza.

"I will never run Chrome (or even Chromium) unless the architecture changes such that NotScripts is as good as NoScript," Espinoza added.

"As long as Chrome's very design makes it impossible to block some types of content, it is unsuitable for use on a real-world internet," he said.

'So Long, and Thanks for the Fish'

"I'm not going to panic," asserted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by "Tom" on the site. "They've promised security updates until 2017, and by then we'll have been reading 'Netcraft confirms it -- Flash is dead' for years.

"I can't say I blame them too much," Hudson added. "The Linux ecosystem is just too fragmented, and the number of users who run Linux who don't also have access to a Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android device is a rounding error."

Ultimately, "Linux users gained more from Adobe than the other way around, and it made sense back when it appeared that maybe Linux could gain a foothold on the desktop," she opined. "But with Linux desktop use still stuck around 1 percent, and the desktop market itself in decline year-over year, the sad reality is that it's simply impossible to justify expending the resources."

Hudson's parting message: "So long, Adobe, and thanks for the fish. You'll be missed. I just hope this doesn't become a trend."

'The Beginning of the End'

Flash is "struggling to stay relevant in the face of HTML 5," asserted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

"It may be that this is the beginning of the end for that format," Travers suggested. "HTML 5 gives all the benefits of flash without the vendor lock-in."

Still, "I am surprised that it did happen this fast," Travers added.

'Shuffling the Deck Chairs'

Blogger Robert Pogson saw it differently.

"Adobe is a sad company that cannot cope with the reality of GNU/Linux," Pogson told Linux Girl. "They let themselves be locked into using M$'s API, which makes all their software unportable.

"If they cannot decide to do IT the right way making portable code, the world does not owe them a living, and we should let them go onto the sinking ship that M$ operates," Pogson went on. "That other OS is a large vessel, but it is shrinking, on fire and holed below the waterline. This latest move is Adobe shuffling the deck-chairs."

Indeed, "Adobe seems to be going out of its way to kill Flash as a platform," agreed consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.

'Has the Community Lost Its Mind?'

Last but not least, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet couldn't understand some Linux fans' cavalier reactions.

"Did I miss a meeting?" hairyfeet began. "Was there an episode of the series I missed? Aren't FOSS guys supposed to be FOR freedom?

"Then why are they cheering the slow death of Flash, which is owned by a company that let you redistribute all you wanted, even make an open source knockoff if you liked, when it's obvious it's gonna be replaced by a codec owned by the worst patent trolls on the planet -- a company that will block Firefox and chromium and any other FLOSS that doesn't 'pay their $699 license fee,' to rip off the old SCO meme?"

In short, "has the whole community lost its mind?" hairyfeet wondered.

'X264 Is Illegal'

In the end, "you reap what you sow, and the community is gonna pay what they owe," hairyfeet went on.

"X264 is ILLEGAL in ANY country that has signed the Berne Convention, and that includes pretty much the entire western world," hairyfeet explained. "When the DRM is added, not only will it be patent infringement but it will be a DMCA violation, which means distributing could get you jail time."

That, indeed, is why "BOTH Apple AND MSFT, two companies that traditionally haven't been the best of friends, are supporting H.264," he added. "They know that will divide the entire web between them and Google, who has the money to pay its $699 license fee."

'They'll Have to TiVo Android'

Of course, "to do so, they'll have to TiVo Android, which mark my words will happen within the next two years," hairyfeet predicted. "They'll claim it's because of 'security measures' and that they are protecting the app market, but the reasons don't matter: you'll have code signing and eFuses making sure that Android code you want to modify is totally worthless.

"Why do you think Google has been so careful about not allowing GPL V3 into Android?" he said.

So, "enjoy your Pyrrhic victory, because soon you won't have flash to kick around anymore; instead it'll all be locked behind an H.264 paywall, and how many people are gonna want Linux when it can't even legally play 80 percent of the videos on the web?"

The answer, he concluded, is "nobody, which gives the big three -- Google, Apple, and MSFT -- just what they want: complete control of the web."

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.

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