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Linux Loses Flash Player – but Does Anyone Care?

There’s no denying that Adobe has been a fickle friend to Linux in recent times, as well as to mobile users in general.

After all, not only did the company put the brakes on mobile Flash last year, but it also put Linux users on a roller-coaster ride for 64-bit Flash and it pulled the plug on AIR for Linux.

The latest affront? Coming soon, there will be no more standalone Flash Player for Linux. Instead, Linux users who want Flash will have to do it through Chrome — unless, of course, they happen to choose from among numerous alternative players out there.

Is it the worst of times — or the best of times? Or does it just not matter? In the Linux blogosphere, there’s never any shortage of opinions.

‘Adobe Is Throwing It Away’

“The appeal of Flash is cross-platform compatibility, and Adobe is throwing it away,” lamented Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza.

“I will never run Chrome (or even Chromium) unless the architecture changes such that NotScripts is as good as NoScript,” Espinoza added.

“As long as Chrome’s very design makes it impossible to block some types of content, it is unsuitable for use on a real-world internet,” he said.

‘So Long, and Thanks for the Fish’

“I’m not going to panic,” asserted Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site. “They’ve promised security updates until 2017, and by then we’ll have been reading ‘Netcraft confirms it — Flash is dead’ for years.

“I can’t say I blame them too much,” Hudson added. “The Linux ecosystem is just too fragmented, and the number of users who run Linux who don’t also have access to a Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android device is a rounding error.”

Ultimately, “Linux users gained more from Adobe than the other way around, and it made sense back when it appeared that maybe Linux could gain a foothold on the desktop,” she opined. “But with Linux desktop use still stuck around 1 percent, and the desktop market itself in decline year-over year, the sad reality is that it’s simply impossible to justify expending the resources.”

Hudson’s parting message: “So long, Adobe, and thanks for the fish. You’ll be missed. I just hope this doesn’t become a trend.”

‘The Beginning of the End’

Flash is “struggling to stay relevant in the face of HTML 5,” asserted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

“It may be that this is the beginning of the end for that format,” Travers suggested. “HTML 5 gives all the benefits of flash without the vendor lock-in.”

Still, “I am surprised that it did happen this fast,” Travers added.

‘Shuffling the Deck Chairs’

Blogger Robert Pogson saw it differently.

“Adobe is a sad company that cannot cope with the reality of GNU/Linux,” Pogson told Linux Girl. “They let themselves be locked into using M$’s API, which makes all their software unportable.

“If they cannot decide to do IT the right way making portable code, the world does not owe them a living, and we should let them go onto the sinking ship that M$ operates,” Pogson went on. “That other OS is a large vessel, but it is shrinking, on fire and holed below the waterline. This latest move is Adobe shuffling the deck-chairs.”

Indeed, “Adobe seems to be going out of its way to kill Flash as a platform,” agreed consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.

‘Has the Community Lost Its Mind?’

Last but not least, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet couldn’t understand some Linux fans’ cavalier reactions.

“Did I miss a meeting?” hairyfeet began. “Was there an episode of the series I missed? Aren’t FOSS guys supposed to be FOR freedom?

“Then why are they cheering the slow death of Flash, which is owned by a company that let you redistribute all you wanted, even make an open source knockoff if you liked, when it’s obvious it’s gonna be replaced by a codec owned by the worst patent trolls on the planet — a company that will block Firefox and chromium and any other FLOSS that doesn’t ‘pay their $699 license fee,’ to rip off the old SCO meme?”

In short, “has the whole community lost its mind?” hairyfeet wondered.

‘X264 Is Illegal’

In the end, “you reap what you sow, and the community is gonna pay what they owe,” hairyfeet went on.

“X264 is ILLEGAL in ANY country that has signed the Berne Convention, and that includes pretty much the entire western world,” hairyfeet explained. “When the DRM is added, not only will it be patent infringement but it will be a DMCA violation, which means distributing could get you jail time.”

That, indeed, is why “BOTH Apple AND MSFT, two companies that traditionally haven’t been the best of friends, are supporting H.264,” he added. “They know that will divide the entire web between them and Google, who has the money to pay its $699 license fee.”

‘They’ll Have to TiVo Android’

Of course, “to do so, they’ll have to TiVo Android, which mark my words will happen within the next two years,” hairyfeet predicted. “They’ll claim it’s because of ‘security measures’ and that they are protecting the app market, but the reasons don’t matter: you’ll have code signing and eFuses making sure that Android code you want to modify is totally worthless.

“Why do you think Google has been so careful about not allowing GPL V3 into Android?” he said.

So, “enjoy your Pyrrhic victory, because soon you won’t have flash to kick around anymore; instead it’ll all be locked behind an H.264 paywall, and how many people are gonna want Linux when it can’t even legally play 80 percent of the videos on the web?”

The answer, he concluded, is “nobody, which gives the big three — Google, Apple, and MSFT — just what they want: complete control of the web.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.

11 Comments

  • I’ve been using Linux 100% for years at home and at work. IMHO, theres no solid alternative to Adobes proprietary flash plugin for linux users who want a stable and reliable flash experience. Alternative such as Gnash cum Lightspark are still far below par. I’m not going to be at panic stations over that concern. If you read at Dedoimedo’s The future of Linux and Flash explained at http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/flash-linux-future.html, at least you may understand what’s going to happen.

    • Aka "Linux runs on supercomputers" which in case you ain’t got the memo pogson, just FYI, the word is CONSUMERS in 50 foot flaming neon! Nobody cares what you run on some old HP netpro dude, nobody. What you are shoveling was called "thin clients" back in the day and you know what? nobody bought it then either, in fact you can buy Sunray thin clients for less than $20 a pop because nobody wants them.

      So keep dreaming pogson, keep thinking those magical thoughts, think about the rabbits while the big three take you out back and finish the job. Mark my words, you heard it here first…Win 8 at $50, H.265 WILL have DRM which WILL force google to lock Android to keep from being busted for DMCA, that will mean you WILL get on board the corporate bandwagon or enjoy your trip to a non Berne Convention country. I hear Paraguay is nice this time of year.

      What is sad is the community COULD have stopped this, all they had to do was stand up to the devs instead of kissing the booty. But you didn’t, you let them use CLI as a crutch and didn’t complain when your drivers got worse, your upgrades became a bad joke, and bug "fixes’ became the order of the day. you didn’t listen and you didn’t learn, you ignored all of us who tried to warn you, now that mac truck is gonna run you down. Sorry but its kinda hard to feel sympathy for those that got every warning and didn’t pay heed.

  • In reality this is not a big deal to most of us. Chrome looks to be replacing Firefox as the Linux preferred browser of choice. Of course typically the usage figures anywhere in the world of Linux is so low its hardly a big deal for Adobe to support it directly. Let’s face reality that the biggest increase in users has been OS X from Apple. Not any Linux Distribution.

  • No fsking way AM I running that browser. It’s written by the same people that track everything you do. I’ll stick with firefox and deal with the problems as they arise. Someone has got to stick Google in the a** for their crap.

    • I’ve watched your rants for several years for the Win world. You’re wrong – dead wrong. Linux is a server based system that runs a desktop like a dream if you get the right distro. I’ve got 5 servers downstairs and roughly 9 workstations around my house. Only one of them runs Windows because my wife insists on it. My design productivity is just fine without paying for that corporate crap.

      • So your answer is excuse #314, aka "Use Distro X" and you don’t even have the guts to name your "distro X" just that some unnamed distro is a "dream", fantasy is more like it. its a shame that I can’t post links here as LinuxTMRepo would cover about 95% of the conversations here. you have use distro X, Linux runs on supercomputers, Its all a conspiracy, all the classics.

        Don’t change the fact the numbers don’t lie and even on the geekiest of sites like Slashdot you are looking and a grand total of…drumroll…2%. 20 years worth of work and THAT is the best you can muster? you can’t even get 5% on a site dedicated to FOSS? that’s sad folks.

        But as I said crazy rants and FUD can’t change reality and the reality is Linux can’t fix the busted toilets because TINSTAAFL. nobody is gonna come into your home and fix your overflowing toilet for free, nobody is gonna do the lousy jobs in Linux either. that’s why the driver model is years behind the other two, why the docs are spares and badly written if they exist at all, why every bug tracker has bugs going back years, double that if you add the ones the devs have deemed "unworthy" of their time and posted "will not fix".

        In the end you just can’t spin reality, Canonical is bleeding money and will be gone in less than 2 years, Mandriva is DOA, gOS, Linspire, novell, Xandros, the landscape is littered with the dead, why? because you simply can’t fix the busted toilets. Each release Windows and OSX gets better, each release Linux gets a little worse. Hey, remember when you USED to make fun of Windows for having to install clean to upgrade? Wow you don’t say that anymore do ya? What happened? oh right, to fix that would be boring thankless work that nobody will do for free so it don’t get done.

        In the end you can’t escape reality, and IRL communism just doesn’t work. the Soviets used to have to order soldiers to do "potato duty" to get the lousy jobs done but you don’t have that luxury so they simply don’t get done. things gets fixed in servers because companies MAKE MONEY on servers. but a desktop is NOT a server, its a completely different role.

  • 1) The bit about GNU/Linux being on 1% of desktops is tired and wrong. Even NetApplications which has the lowest numbers for GNU/Linux shows 37% of PCs in the SanFrancisco area run GNU/Linux. see http://tinyurl.com/7c9vkul

    You can find GNU/Linux PCs on retail shelves in many parts of the world.

    2) Google uses GNU/Linux in-house and is not going to prevent GNU/Linux users from watching YouTube, the biggest content-provider on the planet.

    see http://mrpogson.com/2012/02/29/proof_usability_gnu_linux/

    The FUD is so tiring.

  • A while back, I stopped watching the evening news. My antacid consumption was cut by 80%.

    I was originally interested in this story, but I saw a name and had to stop reading. For the sake of my blood pressure and my ulcer, I don’t read articles that include people who whine and cry to get everything for free but do not contribute.

    I won’t read an article that includes such PEDESTRIAN diatribe. It simply devalues any real information in the rest of the text.

    • Pogson are you REALLY that insane? if you believe that 37% of ANYWHERE is running Linux when /. which is one of the heaviest nerd sites on the entire planet only shows 2% of its visitors run Linux? Well i have a nice piece of swampland you might be interested in, almost alligator free!

      The reason why Linux has lost is very simple, its the "busted toilets" problem. MSFT and Apple pay millions of dollars so the docs and help files, QA and regression testing, drivers and bug fixes, all the "busted toilets" get fixed. This is why I can have 8 year old machines out in the field running XP just as nicely as the day they were released, even though they’ve had 2 service packs and about 3000 patches, its because MSFT paid to fix the busted toilets.

      When you have nothing but volunteers, and that is ALL you have on the desktop, over 94% of the money spent to develop Linux is paid for by SERVER oriented companies that couldn’t care less about Linux on the desktops, well then the busted toilets just don’t get fixed. THIS, this right here, is why you haven’t gained squat for share, oh and don’t bring up Android, which is owned by Google and has as much to do with Linux as the OS on a Sony Bravia TV set. We are NOT talking about phones, your toaster, or what you jammed in your washing machine, we are talking about the billions of desktops and laptops and netbooks all over the planet.

      You’ve lost because you can’t fix the busted toilets, its why your driver model is a good decade behind your competition, why every distro tells you with a straight face you have to do a clean install, something you USED to make fun of Windows for why your help files are just byzantine lists of CLI commands if you are lucky and a "to do" placeholder if you are not, its because the simple fact is if you are working for ZERO pay you don’t want the lousy jobs, everyone wants to be Deiter the artist, nobody wants to be Cleetus who fixes the overflowing Johns.

      Its over pogson, the desktop wars and soon the mobile wars will be over and YOU HAVE LOST. We retailers tried to warn you, tried to tell you your product was too fiddly, that CLI was being used as a crutch, that there were serious problems with the design, but you didn’t listen. mark my words in less than 2 years (right around the release of H.265) Android WILL be locked down with either code signing or eFuses so that Google can play H.265 without breaking DMCA, and any distro that tries to distribute a hacked illegal codec like x265 will be shut down by ICE. All the communities hatred of flash has done is divide the web between google, Apple, and MSFT, 3 corps that frankly couldn’t care less about your "freedoms", see the new changes to the Google data policies for an example of how little they care. You made your bed pogson, I hope its comfy.

      • In case hairyfeet and others are out of the loop, servers do run desktops. Today there are a half a dozen ways a system can run desktops from servers.

        The retailers who forego GNU/Linux today will display it tomorrow or their competition will.

  • I blame end users and large enterprise for this latest turn of events.

    Complacency set in many years ago; users did not demand better, and paying customers did not threaten enough to take their business elsewhere.

    I for one AM not active in the Linux world, but this recent flash news is almost like the commercial of starving people in third world nations; we see it happen before our very eyes on the screen but take no action because we figure someone else will. Well, someone else is taking action, but instead feeding the hungry they are going to make us poor.

    Capitalism as we know it, is broken because the part about the "redistribution of wealth" is not at work in our current form. I don’t even know what to say about this anymore. It disgusts me completely.

    !!!RANT!!!

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