In defence of Adobe Flash…?


For most Internet users Adobe Flash really means Flash Player — a plugin for your web browser that enables embeddable rich content like YouTube videos or addictive free games like Onslaught. Click here to launch that very game in a new window or tab. Go ahead, just remember to come back here when you’re done. 😉

Finished? That was pretty fun, wasn’t it? But if you believe Steve Jobs and an army of Apple apologists, Flash is the very scourge of the web — with sloppy, buggy code that no turtleneck-wearing cappuccino-sipping Mac fan in their right mind would want any part of.

Then again, that game was pretty fun, wasn’t it?

It is true that Flash uses up a lot of system resources when it’s running in your browser. Onslaught doesn’t run nearly as smoothly with the limited overhead on my netbook, for example.

There are also some legitimate security concerns with Flash, from vulnerabilities within the player itself to the proprietary codebase it uses — nobody outside of Adobe can say with any degree of certainty what’s going on behind the scenes when Flash is invoked.

Thankfully, a number of open-source alternatives exist for users to play .swf files (i.e. games), including:

  • Flirt – an alternative Flash runtime;
  • Gameswf Library – an even more alternative Flash runtime;
  • Gnash – a standalone Flash movie player and firefox plugin;
  • Swfdeca Flash rendering library that integrates with GStreamer.

And at least one of these projects — Gnash — has some support for Flash Video (.flv) as well.

If you wanted to stick with the official Adobe product, you could switch to Firefox on a desktop or laptop Mac, and/or use Adobe’s Flash Lite player that works great on Nokia S60 mobile phones.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that it’s a better solution for you and I to have the freedom of choice than for such decisions to be made for us by someone else…

11 comments:

  1. Have you read the recent articles about the BBC using the Flash verification option to prevent any of the open source flash viewers from showing their content?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/24/iplayer_xbmc_adobe_swf_verification/

    http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/BBC-activates-iPlayer-Flash-verification-Locking-out-open-source-940515.html

    Sorry but I just can’t support a format that allows the format owner or content providers to lock out any open source viewer at the flip of a couple of bits on their server.

  2. Have you read the recent articles about the BBC using the Flash verification option to prevent any of the open source flash viewers from showing their content?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/24/iplayer_xbmc_adobe_swf_verification/

    http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/BBC-activates-iPlayer-Flash-verification-Locking-out-open-source-940515.html

    Sorry but I just can’t support a format that allows the format owner or content providers to lock out any open source viewer at the flip of a couple of bits on their server.

  3. If anyone’s interested, there’s a piece on Linux Journal today re: iPlayer vs. Linux.

    Personally, I think the Beeb needs to free their content of geographical restrictions first, and then make a proper Linux-compatible client…

  4. If anyone’s interested, there’s a piece on Linux Journal today re: iPlayer vs. Linux.

    Personally, I think the Beeb needs to free their content of geographical restrictions first, and then make a proper Linux-compatible client…

  5. AC:

    I wonder if the open-source Flash players will move the .swf format to a more universal file type, like PDF has become? I’d like to see that happen.

    I’m going to try out these players you’ve listed here on both my Macs (running Tiger and Leopard). I have Leopard on my iBook G4, so I’d like to find something that works faster with either Firefox or Safari (yes, I know you hate Safari, but the newest one runs about the same speed as Firefox on my iBook, so I’m using it since I can sync bookmarks between it and my G5).

    Ed

  6. AC:

    I wonder if the open-source Flash players will move the .swf format to a more universal file type, like PDF has become? I’d like to see that happen.

    I’m going to try out these players you’ve listed here on both my Macs (running Tiger and Leopard). I have Leopard on my iBook G4, so I’d like to find something that works faster with either Firefox or Safari (yes, I know you hate Safari, but the newest one runs about the same speed as Firefox on my iBook, so I’m using it since I can sync bookmarks between it and my G5).

    Ed

  7. Stan wrote

    “Sorry but I just can’t support a format that allows the format owner or content providers to lock out any open source viewer at the flip of a couple of bits on their server.”

    Guess Apple’s response to this relative to HTML5
    “if you’d like to experience this demo, simply download Safari. It’s free for Mac and PC, and it only takes a few minutes.”

    Yea. It can be an open standard, and still content owners can lock you out. Try visiting those Apple demos at apple.com/html5 with anything other than a Safari browser. I hear there are some you’d even need to have the latest OSX release. WTF??

  8. Stan wrote

    “Sorry but I just can’t support a format that allows the format owner or content providers to lock out any open source viewer at the flip of a couple of bits on their server.”

    Guess Apple’s response to this relative to HTML5
    “if you’d like to experience this demo, simply download Safari. It’s free for Mac and PC, and it only takes a few minutes.”

    Yea. It can be an open standard, and still content owners can lock you out. Try visiting those Apple demos at apple.com/html5 with anything other than a Safari browser. I hear there are some you’d even need to have the latest OSX release. WTF??

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