Six months without Adobe Flash, and I feel fine

adobe_flash_playerAs documented on /., six months ago I de-installed the Adobe FlashTM player on all my browsers.

This provoked some shock and incredulity from others. After all, Flash has been an essential content interpreter for over a decade. It filled the gap between an underdeveloped JavaScript and the need for media content like animation, video and so on.

It also fit a nice political niche. It allowed browser manufacturers to avoid the complexities of developing their own standards while fighting the browser wars. It gave the HTML5 committee (and their many interpretations among developers) time to come to maturity.

But along the way, it also went bad. Most crashes and security holes come through Flash, if you’re using a non-IE browser (if you’re using IE, expect the four-line highway that is ActiveX to help you find the security compromises you apparently crave).

Furthermore, Flash is based on technology that was unstable from the beginning. It began its life as a combination between animation software and Macromedia Director, which was already known for its instability. Since then, features have been added, piling complexity and mystery code into an already bloated runtime.

Six months after dropping the bar on Adobe Flash, I have to report a mixed bag of results — but no regrets. That is, I am blocked from some content and a few websites, but these are generally things I can work around. On the other hand, I’ve had near-zero browser crashes and absolutely zero security incidents.

Things I miss: most YouTube videos are Flash-based (although often if you find them embedded on a page, YouTube will provide an HTML5 version on the fly). HTML5 playback in addition is smoother than FLV videos ever were. There are fewer glitches, slowdowns, jitters and so forth.

Every now and then I encounter a website which requires Flash to proceed. Almost all of these are entertainment-based, and about half provide an HTML version of the site for us non-conformists. I have not missed anything vital, although I’ve missed a few internet memes. C’est la vie.

The most amazing thing is that I love my browsers again. I use FireFox, Opera, Chrome and IE simultaneously to get a view of my sites in different operating environments. I’m fond of FireFox and Opera, although Chrome is too “overly obsessive girlfriend” (OAG) for my tastes.

With Flash, I was experiencing 3-6 really big blowups per week across the browsers. I’d have just enough windows open to be pushing my luck, then click one more thing and whammo, the whole thing would shut down. FireFox has great crash recovery so it wasn’t usually a problem, but a few times, I lost everything I had open.

Since that time, I’ve had none. I seem to recall one browser crash during the last six months, and that may have been aided by simply excessive JavaScript load. Since I started keeping track of crashes out of curiosity, I’ve logged none, and my usage has not been less but perhaps more intense than usual.

It’s great to trust a browser again. I miss out on some videos and joke sites, but in exchange, I don’t have to have my nerves constantly on edge waiting for the next digital mushroom cloud. On the whole, I’m glad to be Flash-less and will never go back.

My hope is that as HTML5 evolves and FireFox moves to include H.264 video support again, fewer people will need the outdated and unstable entity that is Adobe Flash.

Although this sounds like a jihad against Adobe, it isn’t. I use and enjoy their other products. While I have doubts about their habit of seemingly outsourcing vital older technologies to bloated B-teams, many of their products are top-notch.

However, I think it’s time for me — and the web — to move on. Adobe Flash belongs in a niche created by the late 1990s browser wars, and now that these are mostly over, it’s time for Flash to go away. Try it. Your peace of mind and desktop stability will thank me.


  • Filipe says:

    Pretty tempting… :)

  • ssam says:

    firefox already plays H264, it is just disabled by default. just build it with –enable-gstreamer.

  • s says:

    Frankly, I was just too lazy to install Flash on my computer when I upgraded my distro. And strangely enough, until reading this post I had completely forgotten that Flash was still around lol.

  • Alex says:

    The problem is that you don’t develop content for which Flash is far better suited than HTML + JS. I do. For my work, JS is not an option. It simply doesn’t support the functionality I need.

    If you have browser crashes when Flash is installed, you could do well to look for solutions other than Flash itself. The simple fact is that most people who have Flash installed do not experience browser crashes regularly. It is not simply Flash instabilities that you struggled with, but rather the combination of Flash, the content you accessed, and your particular software/hardware combination that resulted in crashes. Do a quick search for HTML5 video crashes or Windows Media Player crashes. You’ll find that people are reporting crashes with those as well. That doesn’t mean that they are unstable. It just means that with a nearly infinite number of possible combinations out there, you’re going to find some that don’t work.

  • HP van Braam says:

    I uninstalled flash about 5 years ago. I’ve been using youtube-dl and get-flash-videos before the whole html5 video thing took off.

    Between that and vodcasts on msnbc I haven’t missed anything I particularly care about.

    And as you say, my browsers have been stable.

  • Chris says:

    I have never found flash the reason for browser crashes. I think it is more likely your drivers,OS or hardware. It would be great if you shared OS and hardware info. I would almost guess that your issues lies in your video card or video drivers.

    For example I get screen tearing in the latest version of Ubuntu linux with flash videos. This is not flashes fault, this is due to my video card being too new and the drivers are too young on Linux. Due to this I switched back to Windows 7 where it doesn’t happen.

    I agree that flash has it’s issues but most of these are due to Adobe than to flash. Main beef with Adobe is that they abandoned the product by first outsourcing it and then dropping support and finally just giving it away to Google.

    Adobe is a horrible company that is too big and just destroys great products like Authorware. My hope is that Google will open source the product.


  • admin says:

    I have never found flash the reason for browser crashes. I think it is more likely your drivers,OS or hardware.

    I can’t agree here, since there are no other crashes (this system is rock solid) and the exact same if not more browser activity doing exactly the same type of stuff. How, in your diagnostic experience, is that unrelated to de-installing Flash? I’m open to suggestions for what kind of causal linkage might exist.

  • admin says:

    The problem is that you don’t develop content for which Flash is far better suited than HTML + JS.

    This is a separate debate, for those who want to develop content for the web. Personally, I’m a backend programmer, but I’ve known some fantastic visual programmers who pulled off quite a bit in JavaScript. Perhaps you’ll share the kind of thing for which Flash is required.

    It is not simply Flash instabilities that you struggled with, but rather the combination of Flash, the content you accessed, and your particular software/hardware combination that resulted in crashes.

    Let’s look at this mathematically. I have certain content, Flash and hardware/software. Nothing changed but the removal of Flash, and the crashes went away. In addition, the hardware/software is rock solid for everything else. What exactly do you blame here?

    This is consistent across multiple operating systems and types of hardware, also.

  • Eli says:

    One thing Flash naysayers never take into account is Flash games. Over 100 million people play Flash games a month on the web. HTML5 is currently not a viable alternative as there is no HTML5 equivalent of the Flash SWF package which makes for easy distribution.

  • Anonymous Coward says:

    Flash is still required by most porn sites. You and I may never visit such sites, but millions of other people do.

  • Eevee says:

    Bravo. I dropped Flash on my machines some two years ago now, before YouTube even had an HTML5 option. Back then, I had some greasemonkey scripts to force YouTube videos into the VLC plugin instead, which worked well enough. The state of affairs today is certainly much friendlier.

    I can’t watch Hulu or a lot of network-specific video sites, and I can’t play Flash games. So I’m forced to do something productive instead. :)

    Really, the main reason I did it was that I was tired of seeing Flash used for video playing. I didn’t like knowing that I was contributing to Adobe’s “98% of users have Flash installed” tagline, so I cast my vote the other way.

  • Bifff says:

    You think Firefox with flash is a problem? Try browsing with KDE/Konqueror (a great swiss army knife beside the browsing, with ftp, command line, scp/the equivalent of Winscp, better file browsing/control imho, more) with images turned on by default. Especially try browsing with a large number of tabs and windows open. Not only will you get random crashes on sites even without flash content, but with the crash recovery built into Konqueror, with a large number of tabs and windows, crash recovery will open all the tabs and windows you had open all at once, putting a big load on even a well equipped system, but once it reaches the window and tab that caused the crash, it will crash all over again, creating an additional crash recovery file. Then trying to recover a second time, you are recovering from the first crash, in addition, all the duplicates of the second crash, all opening until the last tab that crashed the browser to begin with, until it all crashes again, creating another crash file. Try recovering again, and you have three crashes, the original and two duplicates to recover. Not a big deal unless the whole reason you had a lot of tabs/windows open to begin with is because some of those tabs were important to keep open, the uptime of the system is measured in months or years because of the general stability of GNU/Linux, and bookmarking entire sessions every time you open an additional tab is a non-starter.

    Don’t get me wrong. Konqueror is great when it works. It’s lightweight, works especially well and fast especially when images are turned off by default and you have to click on the icon in the toolbar to view images on a page (how I use it regularly) but sometimes I forget and hit the image icon to view an image instead of viewing the page in a different browser, or cross my fingers and hope that a small page won’t crash the browser.

    The biggest problem is that the stability doesn’t get fixed with each new version. Sites that don’t crash Firefox or Iceape/Mozilla or Chrome/Chromium take out Konqueror for no apparent reason, without flash or videos on the sites or too many images. Firefox is a good browser, but too many tabs open consumes a ton more memory than konqueror does, as well as Chromium as well. Chromium has sucky individual site javascript control/lack of noscript and other individual site/page controls. It’s all or nothing, in turning features on/off in Chromium.
    I use multiple browsers when browsing, Konqueror, Firefox/Iceweasel, Chromium, MozillaSuite/Iceape in that order while browsing, but the Konqueror crashes really, really bite when it eventually happpens in every booted session.

    Besides the crashing problems (a crash recovery similar to Firefox when you can choose which tabs/windows to open and which not to by unchecking would improve things but so would better stability) the other drawback and probable lack of adoption is the lack of plugin capability for plugins like adscript, flashblock, etc. Javascript control is especially problematic because javascript can only be controlled for the original site, not any other embedded domains within the page that require javascript to work. The ironic part is if something like noscript were available for Konqueror, there would be more crashes thanks to javascript instability experienced with FF and other browsers.

  • Kent says:

    Most things I do on my MacBook is to use the Chrome, Safari and Firefox web browser. No fancy sites, just news and similar, and some videos on YouTube.

    Yet every day for years, with different MacBooks and OS X version, if I hear the fan spin like crazy the solution is just go kill Flash!

    Most of the time I can see the crazy amount of CPU it takes for no good reason, I don’t even watch a flash video or anything. But sometimes when the cursor jumps and computer is almost totally unusable I go watch processes and Flash just take a few %. Yet if I kill Flash the MacBook comes back to life again. What is it doing?!

    Flash is like a virus trying to suck the life out of my MacBook. And when reported to Adobe they constantly close those bug reports as not reproducable. There must be OS X users at Adobe?! They all must have the same problem as we outside Adobe has, and know there is a problem!!!!

    I know it is not so, but if I was more into conspiracy theory I would think someone pay Adobe to let Flash suck on OS X…… :(

  • john says:

    wow, 6 months, I threw away flash back in 2008.

    There has been fun, and annoying from time to time. For example, I had no way of watching Vimeo for a very long time.

    This project: has saved me so many times from flash-only videos on youtube. Great tip.

  • GDR! says:

    Use something like minitube and wham! you have youtube videos without flash.

  • Nishadha says:

    It’s great that you feel fine without flash, but it all comes down to your requirements. Although I’m not the biggest fan of Flash HTML5 still can’t do some things Flash does.

  • Alex says:

    I use the flashblock plugin. I installed it mostly out if privacy concerns (avoiding the little 1x1px tracking movies). I’ve not had a browser crash in years, other than when using plugins in ubuntu, so I wouldn’t blame flash directly. Flashblock let’s me only load the movies than I actually want to use and hide all the spam ones.

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