Going Straight: How To Ditch Flash and Embrace the Future of the Web

Adobe’s Flash Player is the whipping boy of the web — it’s proprietary, HTML5 is better, Flash hurts battery life and it’ll slap your grandmother if you leave it running for too long.

Apple has been leading the anti-Flash charge, most recently electing to not ship Flash with its new MacBook Air notebooks. Apple claims it doesn’t want to be responsible for keeping Flash up to date, but the company is also prescient when it comes to recognizing when old technology needs to go (remember the floppy disc?).

While we’ve been using Flash blocking browser extensions for years, the idea of ditching Flash completely still feels premature. HTML5, for all its promise, still can’t match Flash in every area, nor is every website embracing HTML5 right now.

However, the promise of better battery life for laptops and mobile devices make the argument against Flash even more compelling. Our friends at Ars Technica were testing the new Macbook Air notebooks when they discovered that getting rid of the Flash Player boosted battery life by as much as 33 percent.

While we can’t guarantee you’ll see the same results on your own laptop, if you want to ditch Flash completely it isn’t too difficult to do.

Blogger Steven Frank has details on how to get rid of Flash on the Mac and replace it with the YouTube5 Safari extension. YouTube5 rewrites every YouTube embed you encounter, forcing them to use the HTML5 version of the YouTube player.

That works well if you’re using Safari and primarily encounter Flash through YouTube movies. But of course, some of us use Firefox, and YouTube isn’t the only site that “needs” Flash. It’d be nice if there were a Firefox equivalent to the Safari YouTube5 extension, but so far we haven’t been able to find one.

Other areas the Flash-free plan causes pain: multi-file uploaders like those from Flickr, Vimeo and other services often need Flash to work properly; charts and graphs on news sites often rely on Flash, and of course those addictive games your friends pass around are Flash-based.

Mac blogger John Gruber has a further tip for those times you really do need Flash, when you need, in Gruber’s words, “to cheat” — use Google Chrome. Because Google’s Chrome browser ships with its own version of Flash, it’s unaffected by the uninstall process outlined by Frank and Gruber.

Gruber also has an extra, and somewhat compelling, argument for why getting rid of Flash is better than just blocking it — many publishers offer non-Flash alternatives for browsers that don’t have the plug-in, so you can still at least see something in place of the Flash content.

If you’re using Windows, the easiest way to get rid of Flash is using Adobe’s Flash Uninstaller. Just download the app, make sure you close any app that might be using Flash, and run the uninstaller. Grab a copy of Google Chrome for those times when you need Flash and you’re well on your way to a Flash free web and, quite possibly, extended battery life.

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that even HTML5 goodies like Canvas animations or videos, if left running indefinitely, will drag down your battery life just like Flash. In the web of the future, with no Flash at all, will we be blocking Canvas to stop annoying ads and save battery life? Quite possibly, but until then… enjoy.

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