Sans Flash

I upgraded to a new MacBook about a week ago, and thought I’d use the opportunity to try living without Flash for a while. I had previously done this two years ago (for my last laptop upgrade), and I lasted about a week before breaking down and installing it. In part because I ran into too many sites that needed Flash, but the main reason was that the adoption and experience of HTML5 video wasn’t great. In particular, the HTML5 mode on YouTube was awful — videos often stalled or froze. (I suspect that was an issue on YouTube’s end, but the exact cause didn’t really matter.) So now that the Web has had a few additional years to shift away from Flash, I wanted to see if the experience was any better.

The short answer is that I’m pleased (with a few caveats). The most common Flash usage for me had been the major video sites (YouTube and Vimeo), and they now have HTML5 video support that’s good. YouTube previously had issues where they still required the use of Flash for some popular videos (for ads?), but either they stopped or AdBlock avoids the problem.

I was previously using Flash in click-to-play mode, which I found tedious. On the whole, the experience is better now — instead of clicking a permission prompt, I find myself just happy to not be bothered at all. Most of the random Flash-only videos I encountered (generally news sites) were not worth the time anyway, and on the rare occasion I do want to see one it’s easy to find an equivalent on YouTube. I’m also pleased to have run across very few Flash-only sites this time around. I suspect we can thank the rise of mobile (thanks iPad!) for helping push that shift.

There are a few problem sites, though, which so far I’m just living with.

Ironically, the first site I needed Flash for was our own Air Mozilla. We originally tried HTML5, but streaming at scale is (was?) a hard problem, so we needed a solution that worked. Which meant Flash. It’s unfortunate, but that’s Mozilla pragmatism. In the meantime, I just cheat and use Chrome (!) which comes with a private copy of Flash. Facebook (and specifically the videos people post/share) were the next big thing I noticed, but… I can honestly live without that too. Sorry if I didn’t watch your recent funny video.

I will readily admit that my Web usage is probably atypical. I’ve rarely play online Flash games, which are probably close to video usage. And I’m willing to put up with at least a little bit of pain to avoid Flash, which isn’t something fair to expect of most users.

But so far, so good!

[Coincidental aside: Last month I removed the Plugin Finder Service from Firefox. So now Firefox won’t even offer to install a plugin (like Flash) that you don’t have installed.]

8 thoughts on “Sans Flash”

  1. I’m glad to not be seeing the click here to install flash things anymore, but I hadn’t realized that was the reason.

  2. Welcome to the Flash-free club! I have an additional thing that I’m trying to run only free software on my desktop, so the Chrome workaround for AirMo doesn’t work for me. So I Vidyo in to live broadcasts (facemuted) using Vidyo on my Android tablet.

    1. Hmm, you’re right, that one requires Flash. Guess I just hadn’t run across one yet. Still, I get the impression that it’s less common than it was 2 years ago. I remember having run into it frequently.

      1. Youtube generally works with HTML5. Some videos do not work directly but visiting them 20-30 minutes later they work, I think that the Youtube servers get the request and reencode the video in the meantime. The only Flash videos left with normal Firefox without plugins are based on Third-party agreements from Google/Youtube with (often musicvideo) content providers.

  3. I’ve tried this before with similar results to your previous experiment, but I haven’t tried it recently. I’m hopeful that we can get using HTML5 video in the near future and lead by example here.

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