Once the darling of the Web, Flash has become a liability and an embarrassment. But as much as the powers that be want and work to make Flash go the way of the dinosaur, there are still a few holdovers on the Internet that refuse, or at the very least can’t, switch away from it just yet. To help ease that transition, at least from the end user side of things, Mozilla is equipping the latest nightly version of Firefox with a tool that will little by little make Flash unnecessary.
This tool is called Shumway and its mission is quite simple: prevent web sites that use Flash videos from breaking even when a Flash plug-in isn’t installed on the user’s browser. A Flash-free system is the ideal system and major web browser discourage or even actively block Flash. But there are still many cases where websites use the technology for videos and those naturally won’t work with Flash, hence this stopgap solution.
This is just the latest in the Web’s war against Flash. It is one of those rare cases where browser makers miraculously seem to agree with each other. Unfortunately, they don’t always agree on what to replace it with. A good majority have rallied around HTML 5 as a standard, but some seem to want to push their own technology to the forefront.
That said, videos are just one of the uses for Flash on the Web, though it is the most prevalent. Some highly-interactive and fancy sites still use it for navigation and whatnot. Shumway takes care of videos and even then it can only whitelist certain websites bit by bit, starting with videos on Amazon.com, and for now, only on Windows and OS X. Late last month, Google switched YouTube to use HTML5 by default in most cases, but still falls back to Flash when needed. In fact, Chrome still ships with its own built-in Flash plugin, just to keep things under is control and supervision while still giving in to the need for Flash. Suffice it to say, it will still take a while before the Web is finally rid of the aging and increasingly vulnerable technology, but we’re slowly getting there.