Firefox VP: Say Goodbye to Flash

Firefox Flash

By now you've probably heard of HTML5, the platform that every browser maker from Microsoft to Mozilla to Google can't stop heralding as the savior of the Internet. Buzzwords aside, developers are excited about HTML5 because it creates a more elegant online experience, enabling users to enjoy the the best aspects of the web—audio, video, multimedia—without having to install external applications like Adobe Flash. In other words, HTML5 allows us to experience the Internet natively, and escape what Mozilla VP of products Jay Sullivan calls "plug-in prison."

Sullivan is gung-ho about HTML5, which has become a major selling point of Firefox 4, the browser's latest iteration set launch in the coming weeks. That's great news for Firefox's 450 million users, but it's not so positive for Adobe, which could see one of its premiere products become irrelevant. So is Flash going away?

"I think so in the long run," Sullivan says. "A lot of it has to do with HTML5. With Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 9, and Chrome, to the extent that we provide functionality in enough browsers, then the developers will switch over to HTML5, especially in mobile, where you can't have Flash popping up on every page just to do some little animation. The idea that you'd have to embed an entire instance of the Flash player just to play a 30 second audio clip? It's crazy."

Like Apple, which sparked a war with Adobe after it banned Flash from its iPad and iPhone devices, Sullivan sees HTML5 as a more viable option than Flash. In fact, Flash is responsible for more crashes on Firefox than any other plug-in, and the company went so far as to introduce crash protection ("Flash" protection?) in June to curb instabilities. "God forbid Flash were to crash," Sullivan says with a smile, before explaining how Mozilla now isolates such errors.

"HTML5 is the longer-term answer," Sullivan says. "We're on that path now."

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15 Comments

  • Raymond Selzer

    All the nay sayers and even this very article only talk of Flash as a glorified media player. Before it was a video shell it was an animation suite and then as Actionscript evolved it became a powerful platform for game development. Maybe as HTML5 forges ahead we'll see flash use return to its roots of animation.

    Someone pointed out chrome updates silently- you neglected to mention that it only does so for minor releases- same with FF update notifications (FF didnt tell me 4 was released) beyond trying to trick me into installing safari when itunes has an update, I'm not sure how safari updates. All these sensationalist articles should have a big asterisk on the title FLASH IS DEAD*

    *in 5 or so years and only as a platform for media playback and webapp development.

    Also all the commenters talking about 'well I'VE never had to use it for one of MY projects' good for you, I guess you're not creating intense animations or creating complex games, but a lot of other people are and that's why Flash will never die.

    Also Also Apple's reasons for raging against Flash are far from altruistic- but I'm not gonna poke *that* lion!

  • Geoff Freedman

    In order to fully move away from Flash, the alternative would have to be more compelling in all aspects. Right now HTML5 is compelling in some aspects because, 1) It will run on iOS devices, 2) It's not controlled by one company, 3) You don't need a browser plug-in to view it. Result--> Eventually no more flash to create content that falls within the pale of web-standards. But what if we want to go beyond web standards? Will we really wait for HTML6 when we want to go forwards? How could clubpenguin.com be created with HTML5? What about all those IE7 and IE8 users? Time to market? So the future of the flash platform is 1) Games (especially social) 2) Video 3) Rich Internet Applications. There is no reason that a great engineer or creative technologist can't develop for both HTML5 and Flash. The market is currently demanding this.

  • Geoff Freedman

    It makes sense that Flash is responsible for more crashes on Firefox than any other plugin. 1) It's the most prevalent plugin by far, 2) The Flash IDE makes it easy for non-engineers (designers) to make animated content without any engineering knowledge. What they produce with a visual authoring tool can be really processor intensive, un-optimized, rushed out the door...hence lots of browser crashes.

    HTML5 will improve this because it will cut out non-engineers from making rich content... uh until companies such as Adobe start introducing HTML5 visual authoring tools such as Wallaby, then it will start all over again.

  • Michael Soileau

    It's not quite so simple. What is touted by most companies as "HTML5" is not HTML5. It's a buzzword, the same way that when "Java" was the buzz, "Livescript" became "Javascript". The problem with all these not-actually-HTML5-but-claimed-to-be-HTML5 is that it reintroduces an old, old problem back during the browser wars. Mozilla has its own "HTML5" and Google has its own, and IE has its own, and Safari has its own, so now you need to make four different webpages and debug all four of them separately to see if they'll work. This also presents a huge problem with backwards compatibility, a major staple of all web development and design.

    From a developer standpoint, this makes HTML5 more of a pain than its worth. Most of the people on the Flash is dying bandwagon aren't developers and don't use Flash for anything. As Matthew points out, HTML5 is always going to be way behind Flash. Why? Because HTML5 depends on every browser manufacturer to update their browsers to at the same time to enable its features, and then for every single browser user to update their browser, while Adobe can patch an issue immediately. To give some perspective, HTML5 has been in development since 2000, since XHTML 1.0 came out and developers wanted to address issues in it.

    Of course, most Flash problems only appear if you use Apple. Why? Apple blocks Flash from using hardware acceleration features. Why? Because as people stream more and more content, they will not want to buy it from Apple's Itunes store. Why not use HTML5 for those streaming sites? Because then you can't make ad revenue off it, HTML5 doesn't allow you to put streaming commercials inbetween. So streaming sites would have to incur losses in HTML5-based versions or switch to subscription based services to make up the loss of revenue. In other words, Apple is largely trying to dictate the way the web develops to its own financial needs.

    Bottom line? Both products will continue to grow and companies who are just doing basic features will probably use HTML5, and Adobe will switch to making Flash into more game-based content than strictly web-based content.

  • kyron

    @soileau - wow, so much ignorance. let me point out a few. fact is, Flash is the #1 crashing plugin for Firefox, which as you must know is cross-platform. most FF users are on windows, not mac.

    next, the HTML5 spec is getting more detailed and implementations are following suit. the video-tag standard is still an issue, but it will get sorted out -- HTML always has.

    lastly, Adobe has in fact released a version of flash that makes use of Mac hardware acceleration. the onus has always been on them to implement any public API, which now exists.

    im a developer. and i dont use flash. it eats my batteries, crashes my browser, and in general is a poor alternative to better solutions in our applications.

  • George Bush

    "Mozilla has its own "HTML5" and Google has its own, and IE has its own, and Safari has its own, so now you need to make four different webpages and debug all four of them separately to see if they'll work."

    It's just as bad with Flash: Flash 9 is different from Flash 10, which is different from 10.0.xxx, and the Flash plugin for IE is a completely different binary than the Flash plugin for Moz/Chr/Saf. As a developer, I've had to track down (and work around) Flash bugs that only occur on Flash for IE, or only on a particular minor version of Flash 10, etc. And instead of slightly different rendering, it's crashing, which is a whole lot less fun!

    "HTML5 is always going to be way behind Flash."

    It's already way ahead in stability. Are you claiming Flash will get stability before HTML5 gets more features? If so, how can you back this up, given that Flash has been infamously unstable (especially on the Mac) for 10 years, while HTML5 has been rapidly gaining features despite being only half as old? If not, why do you think Flash will survive, given that you admit that it's the users (rather than developers) who want it most?

    "Adobe can patch an issue immediately"

    Chrome upgrades itself silently and automatically. Firefox and Safari will prompt the user to upgrade. Do you know how many people are running different versions of the Flash plugin?

    "Apple blocks Flash from using hardware acceleration features."

    This is just plain false. Apple has never "blocked" Adobe from using any feature of the OS. For a time, OS X didn't expose the necessary APIs (to anyone), but that's long past, too. Flash Player 10.2 uses hardware acceleration for video on the Mac.

    This isn't an explanation for the crashing or performance problems, either. If anything, software decoding should be more stable, since the entire pipeline is under the app's control. There's no reason at all that software decoding should crash on the Mac any more than on Windows, or more than other third-party video players on the Mac that do software decoding (like VLC).

    "Most of the people on the Flash is dying bandwagon aren't developers and don't use Flash for anything."

    Citation needed. *All* of the people I know who want to kill Flash are developers who have to maintain Flash code.

  • PT Sandiford

    "... Most of the people on the Flash is dying bandwagon aren't developers and don't use Flash for anything. " Do you include the user in that? Because I try very hard to NOT use Flash for anything but developers keep shoving unwanted "features" down my throat during page views.

    Most of what Flash has introduced that cannot be reproduced in HTML5 is not required in MY life. It frustrates me when my dual core processor slows while I am trying to simply read an article. All of my banks and stores have found a way to provide secure services w/o Flash.

    Why do I NEED to have developers shove this in front of my eyes? Because it is easier on THEM? Bah!

  • Bob Blaylock

    «Most of what Flash has introduced that cannot be reproduced in HTML5 is not required in MY life.»

      I cannot think of a single instance of anything I have ever seen done in Flash, that i would consider to be “required in MY life”.  Once in a great while, I have seen some use of Flash that I have thought was rather neat, but I would have top say that the vast majority of the uses that I have seen made of Flash have been to provide content in a manner that could have been done much, much better without it.

      Flash seems to have established itself as a medium primarily for use by idiots who would rather produce a web site that meets some bizarre notion of being “fancy”; than one that actually provides useful content in a useful manner.

  • Dudley Bryan Jr

    Flash should have ALWAYS stayed as a "game-based" technology, instead of making ANY of these websites thing it was ok to make their content unreachable without the plugin. It's RIDICULOUS.The HTML standard dropped the ball.

    And no, with good frameworks and proper practices, all the complaints you bring up go away as if by magic. It's a poor workman that blames his tools. Seriously, this stuff isn't rocket science as of today. Apple really helped to accelerate this discussion, and its been a really good thing for the industry. As a side-effect, Mozilla and Microsoft are using it as a sales strategy. It's amusing that Chrome is mentioned ahead of Safari these days, when Safari and Webkit, are near synonymous (like Webkit being the rendering engine Chrome is based on).

  • Matthew Fabb

    Funny that the the Mozilla CEO would mention not using Flash when it comes to audio, with audio being an area is still very problematic in the browser, despite gains made with HTML5.

    Meanwhile, Adobe is continuing to add advanced audio features to Flash like the ability to create new sounds dynamically, plus acoustic echo cancellation to the microphone access (browsers still can't access microphone or web camera).

    As long as it remains problematic to do things in the browser and as long as Adobe keeps innovating and pushing Flash to be several steps ahead of the capabilities of the browser it's not going anywhere.

  • Dudley Bryan Jr

    Seriously? NOBODY needs "acoustic echo cancellation" built into a multimedia browser plugin. This should be a factor of the hardware drivers you're using. HTML5 simply needs to achieve the Pareto Principle. 80/20. We need to be able to stream audio, video, and do rich interactive content. It's a really low bar. If Flash was used for special interests... I'm sure no one would have any objections. It is what it is.

  • Dave Macdonald

    The writing has been on the wall for years. It's the best thing for the web moving forward!

  • Alexander Rams

    I have a question regarding streaming. So far HTML5 can't do half of what streaming in flash provides. And yes there are alternate methods to distribute content via CDN's or video platforms, but what about live streaming (which html5 won't do for now)? Will Firefox also stop providing support for live streaming via flash? Because that would be a total drag. I can understand websites, but not video. I'd be interested in your feedback Mr. Carr. Thanks.