At one time Flash videos were practically everywhere. Almost all online videos utilized it (including YouTube), and it was preferred over any other format.
Today however, Flash video is starting to become extinct and HTML5 has replaced it almost entirely. Its demise didn’t happen overnight, and arguably started in 2010 when Apple decided it would not use Flash (ever), and Steve Jobs predicted its days were numbered.
In that same year, Google started experimenting with HTML5 video for YouTube – which was an early sign that it too was looking away from Flash. By early 2015, HTML5 was the default playback option for YouTube on browsers that supported it.
While it may be surprising that a format as popular as Flash could be so readily replaced, it isn’t difficult to see why that is the case. In many ways, HTML5’s capabilities are far superior to Flash video.
The Rise of Mobile Devices
To be completely honest the rise of mobile devices is one of the biggest factors that led to Flash being phased out in favour of HTML5.
Initially, the Adobe Flash Player was available on several mobile platforms (including early versions of Android). However its performance was spotty and more importantly – it was a huge drain on the battery life.
On top of that the majority of other Flash content that was interactive was designed for desktop systems and not mobile devices. That meant that they frequently made use of actions that were not mobile-friendly, such as mouse-overs.
Simply put Flash was not designed to handle touch-screens and mobile devices, and that started to show. The fact that it was a closed and proprietary system and Adobe needed to certify versions for different devices compounded that further.
As mobile platforms stopped supporting Flash, Adobe announced the withdrawal of support for its Flash player on mobile – which was the final nail in the coffin.
Bugs and Vulnerabilities
Another big issue that contributed to Flash’s fall from favour was the fact that it seemed plagued by an endless array of bugs and vulnerabilities.
The versatility that Flash provided was twisted into a downside in such cases. It enabled malware developers to pursue lots of creative options to sneak trojans and other malicious software onto systems via exploits.
Other bugs also made Flash seem unstable at various points in time, and complaints that it would crash or ‘lock’ browsers were all too common. Although Adobe tried to patch bugs and vulnerabilities as they were found – it was never able to quite stay on top of them all.
Eventually, the situation with Flash became more untenable, and more and more parties were calling for its withdrawal. By 2015 it was widely agreed that the risks far outweighed the usefulness of Flash, due to the numerous dangerous exploits that kept turning up.
Benefits of HTML5
In contrast to the challenges faced by Flash video, HTML5 began to realize its promise and provided numerous benefits.
Overall HTML5 is far more mobile-friendly and able to deliver high-quality video playback without the performance and power issues. It requires fewer resources in general to play similar quality videos and supports higher video resolutions including UHD and 4K.
Unlike Flash that requires a separate plugin to be installed, HTML5 support is built-in directly to browsers. It is open source and has been tested thoroughly without any major security vulnerabilities.
The fact that HTML5 video is part of the HTML code of websites is important as well, as it allows search engines to understand the content better. In contrast, Flash is an impenetrable area that search engines can’t look into, making HTML5 far better in terms of SEO.
Today most browsers actively block Flash to prevent it from being a security concern. On its part, Adobe has announced that it will remove support for it completely by 2020.
Now that HTML5 support is present in all major browsers, there is no longer any need for Flash. Although some Flash videos do still exist online, the majority are likely to be migrated to HTML5 or other open platforms by 2020.
Naturally, some older content may not be migrated and could fall through the cracks. In such cases, it may be best to rip Flash video using Movavi Screen Recorder for example, so that it can be saved.
Although it is close to extinction, the role that Flash has played will leave a permanent mark on the internet as we know it. Without Flash it can be argued that videos would never have taken root online the way they did – at least not as early or as prevalently.