In any sensible world, Adobe’s Flash would – and should – have died years ago. Victim to a succession of dreadful security vulnerabilities, only Steve Jobs seemed to have the guts to stand up and fight it.
The puzzle to many is that, in spite of Adobe’s late and very reluctant shift to open technologies, in particular HTML5, Flash is still in quite widespread use. Although no one is prepared to come clean, the most likely explanation for Flash’s long afterlife is a chicken-and-egg situation with the BBC.
For reasons perhaps known only to Adobe and the BBC, the latter chose to use Flash for many of its hugely popular and influential online services, in particular iPlayer. Even with iPlayer’s geographical limitations, it has had a lot of market clout. Although the BBC announced last September that it was introducing HTML5 support to replace Flash, it has been dreadfully slow to roll out that support.
For example, six months later the BBC’s HTML5 services still do not work in the current OS X version of Safari, but oddly do work in Safari for iOS 6 or later.
Should the BBC ever see its way to supporting HTML5 across the full range of popular and current browsers, it is still determined to support Flash for some time to come. According to its latest statement:
We recognise that many users will rely on our Flash player for some time to come. We plan to continue supporting Flash on the desktop for at least the next few years. This is partly because playing video using HTML5 requires a more powerful computer than Flash, and we don’t want to leave behind those users who cannot, or do not wish to, upgrade. However, it’s also because we need to ensure all content is available using MPEG-DASH.
So the BBC won’t stop using Flash, and Adobe cannot really leave the BBC stranded without Flash.
Sooner or later either the BBC or Adobe is going to have to chicken out of this. Is anyone really still going to be using Flash in 2020 – even the BBC?