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;
- Swfdec – a Flash rendering library that integrates with GStreamer.
And at least one of these projects — Gnash — has some support for Flash Video (.flv) as well.
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…