The use of Adobe’s Flash plugin on mobile devices has been a contentious issue recently, with Apple devices notably lacking support. So news that Adobe is dropping support for the Flash plugin for mobile devices in favour of HTML5 technologies may be unsurprising. But what does this mean for this technology and for Adobe’s previous monopoly in this area?
Until earlier this year, Flash was undoubtedly the standard for rich multimedia content on websites, with many major sites including YouTube and Facebook making heavy use of the technology. However, since 2004 a new version of HTML (version 5) has been in development with popular browsers only adopting the standard in 2010/2011. This new version offers many new features including very simple ways to embed video, audio and even “canvas” elements which allow scripts to create and animate scenes on the fly. Of course, these are all features that Adobe’s proprietary Flash plugin already offer, but HTML5 is a fully open and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard.
The problem with Flash and it’s proprietary nature is that Adobe have full control as to which features and/or operating systems it supports. The Linux version, for example, was long lagging behind its Windows and Mac counterparts due to Adobe’s lack of investment of time and resources to this platform. As a company, this is understandable, Linux was not as large a market share as the other two. But the fact that Flash is proprietary meant that the open-source community could not contribute to reduce the gap.
In April 2010, Steve Jobs wrote a public letter titled “Thoughts on Flash” in which he gives his opinion that, “…Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of Web content.” This precludes Apple’s decision not to support Flash on their iOS devices, a move that has been very controversial. Now after Adobe’s announcement stating that they will no longer be developing the Flash plugin for mobile devices, the doorway seems open for standards-compliant HTML5 implementations.