Skip to comments.Flash's departure clears way for format stand-off (Windows 8)
Posted on 09/26/2011 6:31:33 AM PDT by Red Badger
With the announcement that the Windows 8 Metro UI's browser would be plug-in (and therefore Flash) free, a major milestone on the road to HTML5 adoption was reached. But we're still not out of the woods yet.
Apple was the first major operating system company to really start the trip down this road, with Steve Job's insistence that iOS, the core OS for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad product lines, would no longer support Abobe's Flash, citing instability and battery life concerns.
Instead, Apple went with HTML5-based protocols for video and dynamic content. This week, we saw Microsoft joining suit, also promoting HTML5 standards.
At this point, advocates of software freedom should be happy that finally the major software makers are getting on board with the idea of standards for development and content delivery.
Except, unfortunately, that's not what's happening at all.
While it is true that HTML5 video is a step in the right direction, we also have to take into consideration the underlying codecs used to deliver the video content. Therein lies a tale, and possibly another kind of proprietary video fight, complete with potential litigation and threats of patent infringement.
Here's the problem: while Microsoft and Apple's browsers will be supporting the tag to view content, they are only supporting the H.264 video codec by default. H.264 is a proprietary format with patents controlled by a consortium of companies known as the MPEG Licensing Authority (MPEG LA). To get H.264 support in your software (whether a browser or video editing tool), you have to pay MPEG LA a licensing fee.
As Ed Bott from ZDNet reported this spring, this is not currently an exorbitant fee (in fact the most royalty a licensee would have to pay would be $6.5 million/year through 2015). Even better, the MPEG LA has said it won't collect royalties for video players (including browsers) until the beginning of 2016, so only software that encodes, decodes, or streams video is affected by these royalty fees.
But Google (even though it's still listed as a licensee of H.264, right alongside Apple and Microsoft) has opted to avoid the 2016 problem altogether and support only the WebM (VP8) and Ogg Theora codecs, dropping support for H.264. Mozilla has opted for the same codecs for its Firefox browser.
Ogg Theora is an entirely patent-free codec, while WebM does have patents attached to it, but has a free license that grants users perpetual use of the codec without worry from patents.
Most of this is a history lesson, and not unexpected. Microsoft has already thrown support behind H.264 before with Internet Explorer 9, but with the official "all-in," no plug-ins announcement from Microsoft this week, I have concerns that we are getting set up for a video codec war.
Jobs already hinted at it back in 2010 soon after he dropped the no-Flash-in-iOS bombshell, in an e-mail reply to a complaint about using the patent-encumbered H.264 codec:
"All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other 'open source' codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn't mean or guarantee that it doesn't infringe on others patents. An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source."
So, basically, if Ogg Theora content starts making a dent in Apple and Microsoft's bottom line, or that of the MPEG LA's, then expect to see a lawsuit or two headed Google's way after 2015.
That's a long ways away, granted, and anything can happen between then and now. But what seems to be the loss for Flash as a major content delivery format has just cleared the way for yet-another format fight that will last a long, long while.
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it also seems that a major competitive disadvantage for Apple is removed - very much to Apple’s favor.
Flash 10+ has drastically cut cpu consumption, across all platforms, so they seem to have made this decision based on prior performance. At the time, I would have concurred. We use flash as the player for our software and since 10.2, its around 75% less cpu with better hd graphics for the same benchmarks.
The thing is we don’t need Flash any longer. With HTML 5 and the advent of localStorage and libraries like jQuery, Flash has become obsolete.
What’s the JLA without Flash?
ms does not like firefox; just ask my computer.
I see it as a way to keep the user experience something that MS controls without allowing 3rd parties to jack it up. So now when the user has a bad experience MS owns it not some 3rd party. IE was crippled by 3rd party add-ons--much like firefox is. While it's great to have those features what they found is the masses that complain about the product being slow or buggy-it's caused by 3rd party add-ons.
But if they plan to do this they have to do a better job of putting in what consumers want in the out of box experience. Like a built in spell checker.
“Flash has become obsolete.”
Not even close. HTML5 will never be a standard. Has HTML 1-4 been standardized? Has CSS 1-3 been standardized?
The answer: No. There is no way Mozilla, Microsoft, Apple, and Google will ever work together. Apple tried to shut out Flash and it hasn’t worked.
HTML5 is nothing more than a scheme by a few individuals (Steve Jobs one of them) on how everyone views the Internet. Without Jobs, HTML5 has 0 chance of going anywhere.
Flash 11 (molehill) supports 3D. Even Unity (the biggest online 3d engine) quickly stated their support for Flash 11.
Microsoft is still supporting flash, just not with the metro browser. It’s most likely due to plug-ins detracting from the metro experience. But the other IE will run it.
Just when I finally have a phone that plays flash content well...
The future of the web is mobile devices. Flash may have a place, but it’s a small one.
Too little too late. Flash has been the unstable pig of the internet for a long time, if they would have fixed those problems in the mid ‘00s instead of waiting until now there wouldn’t have been this rebellion. But instead they wait until the anti-Flash movement gained steam.
“Flash may have a place, but its a small one.”
We’ll see. But I’m willing to bet Objective C will be replaced before ActionScript on mobile devices.
I agree. Flash 10.2+ has all the touch capabilities plus the best HD graphics at very low cpu consumption now, and I think people are going to be surprised when it is still a major player through the next decade.