Adobe Flash: I'm not dead yet!

We can wish Adobe Flash were dead all we want, but there's still no universal replacement for it. And, there won't be one anytime soon.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Like it or hate it, we're all going to be using Adobe Flash for years to come.

Yes, we all hate Flash. Even Adobe's not that crazy about Flash anymore. Too bad. There's still no replacement for it.

HTML5 video you say? What about it? There's nothing magical about it. 

HTML5's video tag doesn't define which the file format, such as MPEG4 or WebM, or video or audio codec, such as H.264 or VP8, that are permitted. The only thing HTML5 does is let Web developers set up case statements so that they can supply a choice of various combinations of containers and codecs in the hope that your device can support one of them.

In other words, HTML5 video is just a rug that covers the dirt of multiple video formats. It doesn't replace Flash at all. In fact, you can still use Flash within it. We're a long way from being Flash free.

You see, HTML5 doesn't define any video container or format. You can use such containers (aka file formats) and codecs as Ogg files with the Theora video codec and Vorbis audio codec; MPEG4 files with the H.264 video codec and AAC audio codec; and Google's WebM containers with VP8 video codec and Vorbis audio codec for HTML5. And, yes you can also MPEG 4 with Flash. The end result: Flash lives on.

Sure, Adobe is moving away from Flash, and I too once thought that meant that HTML5 was going to magically do away with Flash. I was wrong. All HTML5 video really does is sweep the question of which video containers and codecs under the the rug. Today, Web designers must support not just Flash, but several video formats to be sure that their visitors can watch their videos.

What remains the real default video format of choice? I'll give you a hint. It's five letters long and it's name starts with an “F.” I mean come on try to find a major Web site from a company not named Apple that doesn't use Flash. I'll wait for you. <crickets>

Even Google, which has its own dog in the video format wars—-WebM—-still uses Flash for most YouTube videos. Heck, even on devices like the Nexus 7, which use Flash-free Android 4.1, Flash lies hidden away inside the Google Play video player.

Remember Microsoft's Silverlight? It was going to replace Flash. Microsoft is now backing away from Silverlight. What does Microsoft recommend instead? Good question. I notice, however, that the biggest security issue Windows 8 has had to face so far was its failure to address a Flash vulnerability in Internet Explorer 10 quickly.

True, Flash was, and now never will be, an official standard. Had Adobe tried to open Flash and make it a real industry standard, say via the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), we might all be using Flash now on everything from our PCs to our smartphones to our tablets and we wouldn't be debating about the future of Internet video. As it is, Flash remains the guilty video secret we'll all keep using.

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