Death Of Flash And Java Applets
Written by Ian Elliot   
Tuesday, 14 July 2015

For a set of complex reasons, the final scene is being played out in the life of the Flash and Java add-ins. Many users are celebrating with cries of "good" and "the only thing Adobe can do to fix it is to kill it". What about the programmers?

Mozilla has just announced that it is blocking all versions of Flash by default. Users can activate Flash manually if they feel like taking the risk but my guess is most won't. 

 

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Superficially the reason for the ban is the discovery of three new major vulnerabilities when security firm Hacking Team was hacked. The source code was leaked on line. Adobe says it is working to fix the problem soon. However, hatred for Flash has been growing since Steve Jobs pronounced against it  in 2010 and a few days ago the chief security officer at Facebook called on Adobe to announce an end-of-life date for Flash. 

Similarly a new exploit in the Java ad-on has caused another round of calls to disable running applets. 

You have to ask what it is about browser add-ons that make them so vulnerable and hated. Microsoft's Silverlight, Flash, the Java Applet add-on are all examples of failed attempts to extend the reach of the average browser. 

The argument that the same facilities integrated into the core browser technology allows better protection by virtual of being inside the hardened code doesn't seem to be enough to explain things. 

 

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There is some hope for Flash on Chrome, where Flash is integrated and less vulnerable, but still a problem. On Firefox there is the promise of Shumway, a JavaScript implementation of a Flash player. This is currently being trialed as a possible alternative to the Adobe player.  

We complain that big companies create computer languages and then when it suits them just kill the product off. The most notable example is Microsoft with Visual Basic 6. The result is that programmers are left with no support either for their now "legacy" programs or for their now redundant skills. 

Most users think of Flash as a way of playing videos, but it is also the main platform for ActionScript programs. Lots of designers and newbie programmers found their way into programming via ActionScript because it provided ways of creating animations and other visual effects. There are also lots of games written in ActionScript. 

It is usually said that open source languages don't suffer from the planned obsolescence problem but what about Flash and Java Applets - both have open source implementations? Open source doesn't do much good when your users are convinced that the technology is the work of the devil. 

Now that browser support has more or less vanished so has the user base for ActionScript. And Java in the browser is more or less dead as well. 

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It would be very unwise to start any new Actionscript or Java Applet projects and the reason is a strange one - the technology has been judged to be too buggy by the browser makers. 

Is it just me, or are browser makers becoming too powerful? 

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 July 2015 )