Categories: Innovation

Facebook Scraps Flash ‘For All Videos’

Facebook has dropped Adobe’s Flash technology in favour of HTML5 for all videos on the social network, becoming the latest major website to do so.

Amazon-owned video streaming site Twitch and video rental service Netflix have recently made similar moves.

“We recently switched to HTML5 from a Flash-based video player for all Facebook web video surfaces, including videos in News Feed, on Pages, and in the Facebook embedded video player,” said Facebook’s Daniel Baulig in a blog post. “We… have shipped the change for video to all browsers by default.”

He said games are still being delivered via Flash.

Flash has been criticised by industry observers as a security hazard, with cyber-criminals regularly making use of vulnerabilities in the platform to launch browser-based attacks on users’ systems.

HTML5 doesn’t use a plug-in, instead making use of browser-based technologies specified as part of the same HTML standard that governs other aspects of what’s displayed on web pages.

Facebook said it delayed making the shift because of variations in the way HTML5 is implemented in different software, which caused errors in some browsers.

The company also found that older browsers showed slower loading times and “a generally worse experience” using HTML5, Baulig said, adding that because of this HTML5 won’t be displayed by default on “a small set” of browsers.

Performance boost

He said Facebook also found the site took slightly longer to load with the HTML5 video player. “By fixing several small performance regressions and making multiple micro-optimizations, we finally reached a level we felt happy with shipping,” he wrote.

The new video technology had to undergo lengthy testing to ensure that its logging systems performed correctly, according to Baulig.

Security concerns aside, Baulig said the shift means that videos start playing faster. He said users interact more with the new videos and are spending more time with video generally following the switch to HTML5.

HTML5 also gives Facebook developers access to high-quality tools and testing infrastructure, and is more accessible to tools such as screen readers that provide accessibility to those with visual impairments.

Industry shift

Netflix said last week it had worked with Firefox on a new version of the browser’s HTML5-based video player that works seamlessly with the video-playing service.

Twitch said in September it plans to shift its videos to HTML5 from Flash in the second quarter of 2016.

Google’s YouTube switched to HTML5 videos by default in January of this year.

In August Amazon said it planned to drop Flash-based advertising from its e-commerce websites, after the most widely used browsers placed limits on the technology. The browser changes were themselves in response to attackers’ increasing use of security vulnerabilities in Flash to launch attacks.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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