​Facebook says goodbye to Adobe Flash video

Watching video on Facebook no longer requires using Adobe Flash, regardless of the browser or operating system.

Facebook has moved one step closer to weening itself off Flash, the Adobe platform that has helped the growth of video on the web but has also offered a doorway for attackers to install malware on millions of computers, thanks both to the software’s continuous flaws and its presence on all operating systems and browsers.

The company announced last week that it had moved to a new HTML5 video player for all operating systems and browsers. That should mean all 8 billion videos per day it serves to users will be done from systems using its HTML5 video player rather than its Flash-based video player, and could help usher out the buggy browser plugin.

“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,” Facebook engineer Daniel Baulig wrote.

“We are continuing to work together with Adobe to deliver a reliable and secure Flash experience for games on our platform, but have shipped the change for video to all browsers by default.”

That Facebook is sticking with Flash for games is a notable decision. The company flagged to investors in August that Flash flaws presented a material risk to it after a bug in Flash resulted in Mozilla, which makes Firefox, and Google, the maker of Chrome, temporarily blocking the Flash plug-in in July.

"In July 2015, certain vulnerabilities discovered in Flash led to temporary interruption of support for Flash by popular web browsers," the company wrote.

Facebook’s CSO had previously called on Adobe to phase out the media player in response to that particular flaw.

The company’s switch to HTML5 for video has been in the making for a long time. It built its first HTML5 video player in 2010 however that version only supported iPhones and iPads, which have never supported Flash.

Explaining the delay, Baulig wrote that “in practice we noticed that a lot of the older browsers would simply perform worse using the HTML5 player than they had with the old Flash player.”

“We saw more errors, longer loading times, and a generally worse experience,” he said.

Time is ripe for Facebook to migrate off Flash. Adobe recently announced its intent to phase out Flash and develop a new HTML5 player. Under this initiative, Facebook has agreed to report security information to keep Flash secure for gaming content on the social network.

The move to HTML5 for video however will help Facebook accelerate feature development.

“Using web technologies allows us to tap into the excellent tooling that exists in browsers, among the open source community, and at Facebook in general. Not having to recompile code and being able to apply changes directly in the browser allow us to move fast,” noted Baulig.

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