Adobe Flash – (formerly Macromedia Flash) has been with us since 1996, allowing animations, games and movies to be used on web pages. You’ll still find it installed on pretty much every computer system that regularly uses the web, but is all that about to change?
Many websites are dropping their use of Flash and moving to HTML 5 and CSS 3, which when used together can do everything that Flash could do and more. In this blog post we look at Flash and its future on the web and what actions you should consider if you use Flash on your website.
What Exactly Is Flash?
Flash is a software platform that allows video, games and animation to be displayed inside the web browser. For many years it was the web standard to incorporate any of these features onto your website.
In more a little more detail, Flash content is built a language called Action Script, which is largely based on the long standing web programming language, Java Script.
So What Is The Problem With Flash?
Flash can run scripts from within your web browser meaning that it has the potential to be used by hackers to spring malware and spyware onto a computer.
This means that Adobe have to constantly patch the Flash program to protect it from vulnerabilities that the bad guys would choose to exploit. If you have the Flash update settings set to manual, you’ll probably notice that Flash requests that you update it every few weeks. This goes unnoticed by those who have auto-update turned on.
Unfortunately, those who are have a malicious intent will reverse engineer a security update and use it to target computers that have not yet performed the security update process.
If you own a website that runs flash, it will be a target for hackers to compromise, so that they can use it to spring their malware onto the computers of your site visitors.
Just How Bad Is The Problem?
With just about every internet connected computer in the world having Flash installed the potential for malware infections is huge.
Mozilla and Google, the makers of popular browsers Firefox and Chrome, have recently updated their browsers to disable flash by default. When visiting a website that uses Flash in the latest versions of these browsers a message is displayed warning the user about the vulnerabilities of Flash. If the user still wants to use Flash, they need to visit the browser settings to opt in by activating it.
It isn’t just the browser manufacturers that are concerned about the threats from Flash. Facebook recently publicly asked Adobe to set an end of life date for Flash. Anyone who owns an apple mobile phone or tablet will know that Flash isn’t available on those devices. This isn’t because apple devices aren’t compatible. Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple wrote an open letter revealing his thoughts on Flash in 2010 stating that because of its security vulnerabilities it would not be allowed on Apple mobile devices.
What Does This Mean For My Website?
If you are running Flash on your website to power animations, games or movies, now is the time to plan for its removal.
We spoke to our friend Liam of Identify Web Design, who told us “If you’re not sure if you have Flash on your website, talk it over with your web developer who will be able tell you if it is in use and what the options are for its replacement. With major browsers not allowing Flash by default you could be presenting a website to your visitors that doesn’t work properly. Removal of Flash has to be a top priority for the security of the website and its visitors.”
What Is The Alternative To Flash?
We already mentioned HTML 5 and CSS 3 earlier in this blog. Working together they allow for web developers to perform all the bells and whistles on your website that were possible in Flash. HTML 5 and CSS 3 aren’t add on scripts like Flash – they are simply the latest versions of the languages that mark-up and style your web pages. Best of all, HTML 5 and CSS 3 work on all devices, including Apple smartphone and tablets.
For webmasters, we hope that our article has been informative on the issues that exist with flash and provided you with a plan of action for protecting your website. If you have any further questions on Flash replacement we’d recommend talking to your web developer as Liam from identify suggested. Thanks for reading.