Homeless in Vancouver: Facebook drops Flash video for HTML5

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      Facebook dropped another bombshell on the beleaguered Flash Player last week. The world’s most popular social media platform has completely stopped using Adobe’s aging Flash technology to deliver embedded video over the web, opting instead to go all HTML5.

      Daniel Baulig, a front-end engineer with Facebook, made the official announcement on December 18:

      “We recently switched to HTML5 from a Flash-based video player for all Facebook web video surfaces, including videos in News Feed, on Pages, and in the Facebook embedded video player. We are continuing to work together with Adobe to deliver a reliable and secure Flash experience for games on our platform, but have shipped the change for video to all browsers by default.”

      What’s worse (for Adobe) is that Baulig—clearly aiming to influence other Internet players—elaborated some hurdles Facebook had to overcome, such as poor HTML5 support in older browser. But overall, he was effusive about the benefits of ditching Flash video playback in favour of HTML5, so far as both Facebook and its users were concerned:

      “Not only did launching the HTML5 video player make development easier, but it also improved the video experience for people on Facebook. Videos now start playing faster. People like, comment, and share more on videos after the switch, and users have been reporting fewer bugs. People appear to be spending more time with video because of it. Videos are an enriching way to connect with the world around you, and we’re happy we could make the Facebook video experience better.”

      The only consolation that Adobe could take was in the last sentence of Baulig’s first paragraph, about “continuing to work together with Adobe to deliver a reliable and secure Flash experience for games on our platform”.

      Keep friends close, enemies closer, and Flash Player closest of all

      For all its dangerous security flaws, Flash still has no equal in HTML5 for creating web-based Facebook games such as Zynga’s Farmville franchise or CrowdStar’s Happy Aquarium. These type of games continue to earn billions of dollars for all concerned and until HTML5 catches up, Facebook has no choice (if it wants the revenue) but to work together with Adobe in order to mitigate the risks posed by Flash games.

      Adobe tried to put a positive spin on the bad situation by announcing on December 8—just ahead of Facebook’s public axing of Flash video—that Facebook was joining Google, Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla (Firefox), Opera, and other leading Internet players, in helping Adobe make the Flash Runtime (aka Flash Player) secure, reliable, and compatible for everyone.

      Far from being votes of confidence in the Flash Player, Adobe’s “partnerships” have more in common with votes in the UN Security Council to send World Health Organization teams somewhere to contain an outbreak of ebola.

      The year in a Flash

      And speaking of lethal contagions, Adobe’s premiere multimedia plug-in ended a banner year on a high(ly infectious) note.

      Flash Player’s last scheduled security update of the year (APSB15-32) rolled out on December 12 and patched a record 79 security bugs! So, all together in 2015, Adobe patched no fewer than 320 vulnerabilities in Flash Player, or just a shade over six per week!

      Total security updates for Adobe Flash Player in 2015
      Patch DateVulnerability identifierVulnerabilities patched
      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.