Saying goodbye to Flash (in Firefox, and in my web experience)

August 20, 2019

Today, for no specific reason, I finally got around to removing the official Adobe-provided Linux Flash plugin packages from my office workstation. I was going to say that I did it on both my home and my office machine, but it turns out that I apparently removed it on my home machine some time ago; the flash-plugin package was only lingering on my work machine. This won't make any difference to my experience of the web in Firefox, because some time ago I disabled Flash in Firefox itself, setting the plugin to never activate. Until I walked away from Chrome, Chrome and its bundled version of Flash was what I reached for when I needed Flash.

I kept the plugin around for so long partly because for a long time, getting Flash to work was one of the painful bits of browsing the web on Linux. Adobe's Linux version of Flash was behind the times (and still is), for a long time it was 32-bit only, and over the years it required a variety of hacks to get it connected to Firefox (cf, and, and, and so on). Then, once I had Flash working, I needed more things to turn it off when I didn't want it to play. After all of this, having an officially supplied 64-bit Adobe Flash package that just worked (more or less) seemed like sort of a miracle, so I let it sit around even well after I'd stopped using it.

Now, though, the web has moved on. The last website that I cared about that used Flash moved to HTML5 video more than a year ago, and as mentioned I haven't used Flash in Firefox for far longer than that. Actively saying goodbye by removing the flash-plugin package seemed about time, and after all of the hassles Flash has put me through over the years, I'm not sad about it.

(Flash's hassles haven't just been in the plugin. I've had to use a few Flash-heavy websites over the years, including one that I at least remember as being implemented entirely as a Flash application, and the experience was generally not a positive one. I'm sure you can do equally terrible things in HTML5 with JavaScript and so on, but I think you probably have to do more work and that hopefully makes people less likely to do it.)

Flash is, unfortunately, not the last terrible thing that I sort of need in my browsers. Some of our servers have IPMI BMCs that require Java for their KVM over IP stuff, specifically Java Web Start. I actually keep around a Java 7 install just for them, although the SSL ciphers they support are getting increasingly ancient and hard to talk to with modern browsers.

(I normally say TLS instead of SSL, but these are so old that I feel I should call what they use 'SSL'.)

PS: I'm aware that there is (or was) good web content done in Flash and much of that content is now in the process of being lost, and I do think that that is sad. But for me it's kind of an abstract sadness, since I never really interacted with that corner of the web, and also I'm acclimatized to good things disappearing from the web in general.

Written on 20 August 2019.
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Last modified: Tue Aug 20 23:53:26 2019
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