Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It)
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Do you remember the end of Old Yeller, when the kid has to shoot his dog because it has rabies? The situation with Adobe Flash is a little like that, except that the dog isn’t rabid – it’s just not very good. And nobody actually ever loved it.

The Internet’s relationship with Flash Does Adobe Flash Need to Die? [MakeUseOf Poll] Does Adobe Flash Need to Die? [MakeUseOf Poll] We want to know what you think about Adobe Flash, and, in particular, whether you think Flash needs to die. Welcome to this week's MakeUseOf Poll. Read More has been rocky for a while. Since the creation of alternatives like HTML5 video, more and more major websites have been steadily dropping it – including giants like Netflix and YouTube. Things got a bit heated last month when Firefox became aware of a critical security vulnerability within the software, and blocked the plugin entirely.

Shortly thereafter, Facebook’s chief of security publicly called for Adobe to announce a kill-date for Flash Adobe Flash Must Die, Apple Suffers From Staingate, & More... [Tech News Digest] Adobe Flash Must Die, Apple Suffers From Staingate, & More... [Tech News Digest] Facebook bashes Flash, Apple scrubs those stains, Walmart launches Black Friday 2, Nintendo suffers a real loss, Spotify maps the world, and R5-D4 ends it all. Read More , and Google Chrome began blocking auto-playing Flash ads by default.

In the aftermath of the block, Flash made an effort to beef up its security in an effort to justify its existence. Unfortunately, it’s recently become clear that the added security precautions were broken less a month after they originally premiered. The new exploit was discovered by security researcher Kafeine, writing for hacker blog “Malware don’t need coffee.” This is yet another reminder of just how much of a security nightmare Flash really is. The new exploit has already been included into an automated hacking toolkit, which is used to place malware on user computers.

Flash From the Past

Flash used to a be a universal standard on the web. Now, it looks like it may be headed to the chopping block. So what changed?

As it turns out, the answer is “nothing” – and that’s the problem. Flash is a little like that friend of yours from highschool who still lives with his parents and thinks ‘pull my finger’ is funny. He hasn’t changed a bit, but at some point he stopped being fun to hang out with. 

Flash is very much the same piece of software that it was in the early oughties. However, as the web has grown up around it, Flash had failed to keep up. In a world of open-source, Flash is entirely closed and proprietary. In a world of web apps designed to run well on lightweight platforms like tablets and phones, Flash is a memory-and-battery-sucking monster. In a world increasingly aware of the importance of security, Flash is riddled with holes and years-old unpatched code. It’s not surprising that Flash has proved to be a fertile ground for hackers.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Adobe has failed to keep pace with the times. After all, their other software (like Acrobat and Photoshop) are also resource monsters with plenty of security vulnerabilities Browser Plugins - One Of The Biggest Security Problems On The Web Today [Opinion] Browser Plugins - One Of The Biggest Security Problems On The Web Today [Opinion] Web browsers have become much more secure and hardened against attack over the years. The big browser security problem these days is browser plugins. I don’t mean the extensions that you install in your browser... Read More . However, their other products either have lightweight and secure alternatives (like Acrobat) This Is Why You Don't Need Adobe Reader This Is Why You Don't Need Adobe Reader Adobe Reader is bloated, slow, and a liability. In short, it's unnecessary. Do you need a PDF Reader at all? We show you how to open PDF files without Adobe Reader. Read More , or are primarily used by professionals and don’t have networking capabilities (like Photoshop). Being a web standard is a much more sensitive situation, with a much higher bar for quality – a bar that Flash simply no longer reaches.

How a Standard Dies

This grim situation persisted for longer than it should have, because standards have a kind of inertia. If you want to create a browser game or play a video, asking users to install a plugin leaves you dead in the water. The whole point of the browser is its convenience: the ability to things without needing to install stuff. Unless a plugin is bundled with most browsers, there’s no way for it to get over the hump to ubiquity.

Flash was the first plugin to simultaneously do many media-related tasks competently – as a result, it was able to rise to ubiquity early on. Since then, its various challengers have had to fight an uphill battle. The situation needed to get really bad before change was possible. We’re now seeing that change begin to happen. Largely, the solution has been making the basic infrastructure of the web (like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) smarter, allowing it to take over the responsibilities of Flash, without introducing the same slowdown and vulnerabilities – and without requiring users to voluntarily download additional software.

The problem probably would have persisted for much longer if not for the rise of mobile platforms. A big blow to Flash was the decision not have the original iPhone support it. At the time, Apple cited its impact on performance and battery life, concerns which still apply today. As of now, Flash is not supported on any major phone operating system. There are workarounds on a few platforms How to Enjoy Flash Video on Windows Phone How to Enjoy Flash Video on Windows Phone During my recent holiday I had some spare time and tried to find something interesting to watch on my Windows Phone. Now, I could have used the YouTube or BBC iPlayer or many other apps,... Read More , but they’ve largely become unnecessary as the web has moved away from Flash content.

Here’s Jobs justifying the decision not to support Flash on the iPad, back in 2010:

While Flash’s poor performance can be overlooked on the desktop, it becomes intolerable on mobile devices. And, when developers are forced to port their video streaming services to a new standards on mobile, they might as well make the jump on the desktop too. It’s this process that’s been slowly chipping away at Flash Die Flash Die: The Ongoing History of Tech Companies Trying to Kill Flash Die Flash Die: The Ongoing History of Tech Companies Trying to Kill Flash Flash has been in decline for a long time, but when will it die? Read More over the last decade or so.

How to Disable Flash

If you want to vote with your feet and start speeding up the future of the internet, you can turn off Flash right now. It’s easy, and you might be surprised how little you need it (hint: most of the stuff it breaks will be sketchy ads). If you need it, you can always turn it back on again.

  • To uninstall Flash on Chrome, simply go to chrome://plugins/ using the address bar, and click Disable under Adobe Flash Player.
  • In Internet Explorer, click the gear icon in the corner, go to manage add-ons, then the show box and click All add-ons. Find the Shockwave Flash icon, highlight it, and click disable.
  • For Edge, open the menu, click settings, and go to View Advanced Settings. Find the use Adobe Flash Player and turn it off.
  • For Firefox, click the settings menu (the three horizontal bars). Click Add-ons then Plugins then choose Never Activate from the drop-down menu.

There are a lot of benefits to uninstalling Flash. The web runs faster, there are fewer obnoxious ads, and you’re less vulnerable to hackers and malware. Likely, Flash will be totally phased out by the major browsers in a few years, but you can enjoy most of the benefits right now with very little work.

If you choose to go the uninstall route, let us know how it goes! What do you miss? Any unexpected benefits? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Bob Pike
    November 25, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Flash requests pop up now and then. I try it with, it works. Without - it works - usually. It's getting hard to know a difference whether flash is helping or not. If the "Flash" CEO" was cool, he'd offer an easier way to use it, or a simple 5-10 second infomercial about why it's good to use.

  2. Jim "JR"
    April 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    This is all well and good, but I have a question about all of this:
    In the Good Ol' Days, you had a web browser that was just that - A WEB BROWSER. No more, no less. If you needed a particular feature, (PDF rendering is an example), you found and downloaded an associated add-on applet that did the job. If you didn't need it, you didn't install it. The result was a web browser and a web experience that ran well, even on the "bleeding edge" hardware of the time.

    Now you have browsers - IE, FF, Chrome, etc. all included - that have become larger than some *operating systems* - and certainly larger than some earlier editions of Windows.

    They have become the "lumbering beasts". They consume hellacious amounts of processor power, battery time, etc. etc. etc.

    What I would like to see is this:
    Instead of web browsers becoming miniature operating systems, I'd like to see a return to the simple, clean, straightforward Web Browser that allowed the addition of whatever additional functionality you needed - and ONLY that functionality.

    What say ye?

    Jim "JR"

    • Tech Man
      April 4, 2018 at 2:43 am

      Just saying, there's a version of Linux that's 4 MB!

  3. Gran
    January 10, 2017 at 2:56 pm


    I havent read the rest of the article, i just see that the very first paragraph is WRONG. xD

  4. FlashSucks
    November 3, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    It was flash... I turned it off and everything started working fine. My games stopped stuttering, my internet was faster, and my computer in general became faster while getting rid of the 100% disk usage. Thanks.

  5. Matt Peberdy
    November 2, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    This is the most biased and ill-informed article I have ever read. The reason why the most brilliant development that ever happened to the web is suffering is so Apple could have complete control over apps and games and subsequently the monetization of such. Apple app is closed source compared with Flash. The reason every site is beginning to look the same, like a squarespace page or wordpress blog, is because of the limitations of HTML5. Flash evolved to be an extremely powerful object orientated programming language as well as one of the best vector based animation tools ever created. It changed the web from the domain of coders to that of designers, and with that, attracted the most creative and diverse designs imaginable. So, you had to have a plugin to use it, and what's a plugin? It's a small bit of software that browsers automatically started to include due to it's massive popularity, all browsers, one plugin, one solution, unlike the HTML5 video tag fiasco we are still suffering with today. Remember, Flash was born when modems were 56k and computers were half as powerful as a modern smart phone, and it worked fine. If Jobb's hadn't barred Flash from IOs for reasons stated above as well as Apples controlling nature, Flash would work just fine, and there would be millions more games and apps available, and thousands more people able to develop them. Security bugs always come up, it's the nature of new and evolving technology. These issues can be fixed. Flash was brilliant, it just wasn't an Apple product like Quicktime, and Adobe lost that battleā€¦

  6. Wayne
    February 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Are there any flash alternatives out there. This is an informative article but I'm unfamiliar with all the Flash negatives (too lazy to research it , not good ) up and until now. So I appreciate the education. Seems that a lot of sites require it or its equivalent! Please respond.

  7. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Unless someone can tell me how to use Pandora without flash in Chrome, I have to keep Flash active! :/

    • Anonymous
      September 8, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      Hi Kristen!
      Pandora has a non-flash version called "New Pandora". Since Chrome is dropping support for Flash, try disabling the Flash plug-in and see if Chrome automatically detects and switches over to New Pandora.
      Also, as per the Pandora website, the iOS and Android apps don't use Flash (I think that is why Pandora developed New Pandora.)

  8. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 1:33 am

    I am a linux user and the flash ads used to annoy the life out of me. Now, the only annoyance is that the little video's posted on FB are still flv files and so won't play. If they're on Youtube I can always watch them on there. For me, the sooner it dies, the better.

  9. Anonymous
    September 6, 2015 at 8:38 am

    And I have the opposite feeling - I prefer Flash, and HTML5 doesn't work well on my machine. So I have any part of HTML5 that I can shut down, disabled; and meanwhile I use Flash & Silverlight for a lot of my multimedia.

    I will never move to Linux. I have moved away from LibreOffice back to MSOffice. The only open-source parts of my daily life are Firefox and SeaMonkey - which I panic about every time, and use closed-source security software to protect. I used Opera until they bent over for Google. If Maxthon didn't have Blink, I'd use that instead. And if anyone knows of a closed-source, free browser which uses a proprietary rendering engine (i.e. not Webkit, Gecko, Blink, libwww), I'd love to know.

    I'd rather trust Adobe, who I know are out for my money, than a bunch of nameless weirdos online who develop HTML5 "standards". I don't know what they want - and that scares me.

    The lack of Flash is the one big reason my iPad is strictly for use when I absolutely, positively, cannot have my laptop with me.

    Give me back The Web That Worked - and get rid of this crazy patchwork bullshit you open-source jackasses decided we should have.

    • Anonymous
      November 6, 2015 at 3:18 am

      Hey Edward, theres a browser called Pale Moon (an Open Source web browser forked off from the Firefox/Mozilla code) that will continue support for NPAPI plugins. This browser doesn't ride Firefox release cycle and so you don't have to worry about them abandoning Flash or any other stupid decision Firefox decided to make once they agreed to be Chrome/FXChrome.

      Pale Moon was developed for power users and puts users choice first above all. Hope you can come to like Open Source. :)

      LINK: https://www.palemoon.org/, https://www.palemoon.org/releasenotes.shtml and there beta: https://www.palemoon.org/WIP/.

  10. Anonymous
    September 4, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Why so much hate? It looks in tech news it's like hate-flash trend or what?

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 5, 2015 at 5:49 am

      We all took Taylor Swift's message far too seriously.

  11. Anonymous
    September 4, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I do agree that in its current state and seemingly lack of interest in quickly patching security issues flash needs to change. I think that the best thing that could happen would be for Adobe to release Flash as open source software with a GPL license. If this were done there would probably be a lot of interest in keeping it alive along with increasing its feature set by open source developers. If this were to happen the 1,0000's of web developers and private individuals who have invested a lot of time in learning and using Flash over the years would not have to begin all over again with the tech of the month which at the moment happens to be HTML 5. So far my experience with the use of HTML 5 has been mixed and there are sites that I subscribe to, Lynda.com and Groove 3.com and You Tube that in my opinion are no where a good as when their videos were Flash based.

  12. Anonymous
    September 4, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Interesting that, Flash is supposed to be this evil CPU & battery hog, but on older systems, the Youtube Flash player works better than the HTML5

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 5, 2015 at 5:53 am

      How old are we talking here? Just curious, not arguing. I agree with you, but I only face this on a machine I built in 2006. 10 years is a pretty long time in tech terms.

      • Anonymous
        September 6, 2015 at 6:01 pm

        A friend's old XP system Dell Dimension 8200 with a 2GHz P4 - yeah, pretty old.

        I guess Flash must be doing something right in its video codec though.

  13. Anonymous
    September 4, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Check the Firefox instructions you provided. My latest version of Firefox doesn't have 'plug-ins' as a separate menu setting. You have to go down into the advanced settings, Content Settings, scroll down to the Plug-ins section, I changed that section's option to 'let me choose when to run a plug-in', then go into manage individual plug-ins to locate and disable Adobe Flash.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 5, 2015 at 5:56 am

      Thanks for the quick guide, Kandy! What version of FF are you running?

      • Anonymous
        September 5, 2015 at 11:29 am

        Sorry, I was more tired than I thought when I read your instruction. I could have sworn I was in Firefox trying to follow your instructions. Nope...I was in Chrome. Sleep! It's an amazing thing! :) Never mind!

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 5, 2015 at 3:56 pm

          Hahaha no problem Kandy, it happens ;)

  14. Anonymous
    September 4, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Unfortunately many sites still insist on using Flash and don't look like they will change to HTML5 or anything else anytime soon.

    • Anonymous
      September 5, 2015 at 12:17 am

      That's why the features of 'Flashblock' should be integrated into each browser by default. For those who don't know, Flashblock is a browser add-on for Firefox that blocks all Flash by default, but gives you the ability to 'click to play' flash things, as well as permanently 'whitelist' all flash objects from certain websites (ie: video streaming websites). It means that by default you are safe against all those drive-by exploits that use Flash vulnerabilities.

      Flash, at this point is considered a deprecated technology. HTML5 and AJAX can do at least 90% of the stuff that could only be done with Flash before (if you exclude browser-based games).

  15. Anonymous
    September 4, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    You left out one important fact. Html5 may be more secure but it runs like crap. It requires a serious amount of cpu and video power to produce a video on the screen. And if your using any low end computer, It's going to stutter and lag like crazy. And that is why we have the youtube flash player addon. To override this new garbage that their shoving down our throats.

    • Anonymous
      September 6, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Thank you! This is what I've been saying ever since they built the video crap into the browser!

      • Anonymous
        September 7, 2015 at 11:40 pm

        All of this is true and reasonable. The bad thing is that even if it's horrendously efficient and fast and runs everything beautifully, Adobe has let it become a festering pile that provides a vector for numerous pieces of malware--and Adobe doesn't seem interested in fixing it. So we have a very nice way to do stuff that allows naughty people an easy way to make things go bad.

        Doesn't sound like a good trade, to me.

        • Anonymous
          September 8, 2015 at 12:13 am

          That's the nature of freeware. If you don't have security in place to protect against those sorts of weaknesses, that's on you. I'm sorry, but I'm not paying them money - I never would, but I acknowledge that I'm not doing so. That means I'm not a "customer", I'm just someone who has a computer with software on it.