The death knell for Flash may finally be ringing. Google is looking to push HTML5 as a replacement for Flash as early as the end of this year. In an announcement the company said Flash will only be the default for a small percentage of domains that still depend on it, however users will be asked whether Flash should be allowed to run or not. While the plug-in will still come with Chrome, it will not be advertised and if a site offers HTML5, this will be the automatic default. Of course Google doesn’t want to annoy users by forcing them to accept Flash every time they returned to a site, so should the plugin be accepted on a particular site, Chrome will remember this, set it as the default and automatically run it next time the site is opened.
Google made this announcement partially as a warning to the major players still using Flash, that it’s time to phase it out. Domains such as YouTube, Facebook and Amazon are in the firing line, although Google has made a commitment to ensure top 10 sites are not affected for at least 12 months from the change.
Flash has long been famous for its shortcomings regarding security, with new vulnerabilities and security updates being published on an almost daily basis. It also has a tendency to slow down websites, and doesn’t work on most mobile devices. Importantly for Google, there are major issues around optimisation for search engines. Most critical however are the amount of Flash blockers now in place, making Flash content often times inaccessible at best and unwanted at worst.
It was Adobe itself that began the death march of Flash in November 2011 with the withdrawal of Flash support for mobile devices, however such was the prevalence of the technology and lack of alternatives that has remained present and even standard for many users. However with HTML5 being advanced in almost every way, including but not limited to security, functionality, and speed, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Flash as anything but a relic within the next few years. It is however testament to the loyalty of certain users and to the height of its original uptake that it is, in spite of obvious shortcomings, still being used at such a significant level.