• United States



Death to Adobe Flash? Not so fast

Sep 16, 20114 mins
Data and Information Security

Adobe haters are getting excited after looking at Windows 8 and seeing that it has no place for Adobe Flash. But the iPad experience tells me it won’t be so easy to get rid of this thing.

The excitement is all over this article from Ian Paul. He writes that Microsoft appears to be taking a page out of Apple’s play book, saying it’ll dump plug-ins such as Adobe Flash from Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8. He writes:

You’ll still be able to view content requiring plug-ins in Windows 8, but you’ll have to switch to the old fashioned Windows desktop to see it. Users who prefer to remain in the touch-centric, Metro-style interface, however, will have a plug-in free (and presumably Flash-free) experience. Instead, the new touch-centric IE 10 will rely on HTML5 technologies for online video and other functions.

“For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free,” said Dean Hachamovtich, who leads Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team. “The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web.”

The good news is that thanks to Apple’s anti-Flash trailblazing with the iPhone and iPad, many websites now offer HTML5 video when the Flash plug-in is not present. YouTube, for example, will still run without Flash as will many other video sites.

Like a lot of people, I have no love for Adobe in general. Flash and the other Adobe programs ubiquitous in most computing machinery today have enough security holes to drive a tank through. Countless successful attacks have been launched through these holes, and Adobe’s patching process is a mess. Whenever I see an Adobe update on my machines I cringe, because these updates rarely go off without bogging down other programs.

But the excitement over a Flashless IE 10 and Windows 8 needs to be tempered by the fact that Adobe is so intertwined with most of what we’re using today that getting rid of it altogether will be no easy task.

My good friend James Arlen, an IT security pro based in Toronto and known on Twitter as @myrcurial, wrote a guest column for us last year in which he spelled out how the iPad could be the catalyst in kicking Adobe Flash off the Internet. That column got a lot of skeptical comments, and while the developments with Windows 8 back up the picture Arlen articulated, some of the critical responses contained important truths.

Said one respondent:

Your article has very conveniently left out the great things Flash can do. In the hands of true web-craftspeople, it becomes an amazing tool to create user experiences beyond what HTML can do.

If you’re looking to create static informational displays, sure, you can’t beat good ol HTML. But Flash has brought the web all kinds of awesome games and virtual experiences and creative displays.

And it sucks to heck you can’t see any of it on the iPad or iPhone.

If Apple is truly so user-centric, then they ought to let users make the choice whether Flash is useful to their lives or not.

Said another:

You’d have to have a solid, open platform available to thoroughly replace it first, and it would have to be backwards-compatible with existing Flash, or, at least have a friendly means of conversion. Not bloody likely to happen any time soon, unless the Apple cult wants to invent one (read: rip one off from the open source community).

The iPad isn’t really spectacular enough to phase out Flash, *way* more people use flash than have iPads, and that will probably always be the case, as some of us don’t really see the wisdom in shelling out $500 for an oversided iPod Touch.

Two important points.

I’m also of the belief that it’s better to take a major technology and make it better than kill it.

When something is used by so many people, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of anyway.

And despite my own frustrations with Adobe, we can’t deny that its products have allowed us to do a lot of good things over the years. Why get rid of it completely?

I have no final conclusion here. I see a debate taking shape about the future of Adobe Flash and felt the need to add my two cents.

But it is way too early to throw Adobe in the ash heap of history. And, it may not deserve to be there.

–Bill Brenner

one-stop view of latest business threats. We created it for you! Bookmark it! Use it!

CSO’s Daily Dashboard gives you a