Saturday, February 25, 2012

Adobe Drops Support of Flash for Firefox under Linux; Alternatives

As you might have heard already, Adobe has announced that, under Linux, new versions of its Flash Player after 11.2 will only be available for Google Chrome, via its new 'Pepper' plugin API (PPAPI), dropping the support of the old Netscape plugin API (NPAPI). This means that Firefox' Flash support on Linux will freeze at version 11.2 unless Mozilla comes up with some better plans like partnering with Adobe (extremely doubtful), or supporting the 'Pepper' API, in which it "is not interested at this time".

From the Adobe blog:

For Flash Player releases after 11.2, the Flash Player browser plugin for Linux will only be available via the “Pepper” API as part of the Google Chrome browser distribution and will no longer be available as a direct download from Adobe. Adobe will continue to provide security updates to non-Pepper distributions of Flash Player 11.2 on Linux for five years from its release.

So, this doesn't mean that it is the end of Flash on Linux for Firefox users. As you can read above, security updates for Flash 11.2 will be provided for the next 5 years. Till then, we might well have switched to HTML5 completely, or if not, we might have an acceptably stable open source Flash player at least. There are already a few open source Flash players around, like Gnash, Lightspark and Swfdec, but I am really sorry to say that so far, none of them really competes with Adobe Flash Player in any sense.

Google Chrome browser already ships with an embedded Adobe Flash Player, and will start shipping with the PPAPI-based version later this year.


04/02/2012: In light of the widespread issues with the latest version of the proprietary Flash Player,, (thread at the Ubuntu Forums), which may or may not get fixed by Adobe, given this announcement, there is an even greater urge now to look at the available alternatives - specifically reg. web videos, like on YouTube and Vimeo, not so much for replacing it completely in all the other use cases as well.


If you want to try out other available options, the first choice, of course, is HTML5, offering the <video> tag. All the modern browsers, e.g. the latest versions of Firefox, Chrome/Chromium, Opera, Safari, etc., support it. However, when it comes to watching videos via HTML5, you'll be limited to YouTube, Vimeo, and a few other websites which support HTML5 at the moment. Additionally, not all YouTube videos are available for HTML5, but most of them are. Also to note is that those video sharing websites may support one and/or the other video format available for HTML5 mentioned below; for example, YouTube supports both formats, Vimeo only H.264.

For watching YouTube videos per HTML5, you can either opt in to its current trial here:

Or you can just disable the Flash plugin; the web browser would automatically fall back to using HTML5 then, when available.

But, of course, HTML5 won't help for any other stuff based on Flash, as it only offers the <video> tag as a means to replace Flash for playing back web videos - at least till now, let's see to where HTML5 evolves.

As a side note, there are currently two video formats used for supporting the HTML5 <video> tag: WebM (open source), and H.264 (pantented). Please see this table for the current status of support by the web browsers, but notice that Mozilla has most recently announced to support H.264 at least on mobile platforms, reluctantly giving up its general open standards-only policy for the sake of better supporting mobile users, at least in the interim.

FlashVideoReplacer Add-on

From its description:

Replace embedded flash videos and display them with a different plugin or standalone player, download or automatically redirect to WebM player when available.

Whether or not having major issues with Adobe Flash Player, as mentioned above, or HTML5 is supported or not, this add-on is a great means to considerably reduce the CPU usage when playing back web videos, thus making the playback much more fluent - particularly when using the 'Standalone' video player option - especially on older machines; offering the videos in both the FLV and the MP4 format, in all available resolutions. Plus, it also offers to download the concerning videos, pitting it directly against such well-known add-ons like 'Video DownloadHelper'!

More info and installation here:

However, similar to the HTML5 way, it only works with a couple of websites till now, incl. YouTube, Vimeo, and Metacafe; it doesn't support the 'annotations' feature of YouTube; and so far, conflicts with the HTML5 playback if you are opted in to YouTube's trial and are directly on its site. So I, in fact, recommend opting out of the HTML5 trial, and when you are on other sites than YouTube offering the playback directly, as usual, either disable the Flash plugin completely, for example with a nifty tool like the Prefbar add-on, to make Firefox automatically fall back to using HTML5, or click on the 'Watch on YouTube' button in the embedded player to switch to its site and, thus, enable FlashVideoReplacer to handle the video.


Gnash is an open source Flash player, and is reverse engineered from the proprietary Adobe Flash Player. So, unlike the alternatives outlined above, it's supposed to work with any Flash content, not just videos - at least in theory. Though there is no clear - and sound - statement with what browsers its browser plugin works, it seems like it works with the most of the popular ones, like Firefox, Chrome/Chromium, Opera, and Konqueror.

For installing it and the Mozilla browser plugin, get to a Terminal and run:

sudo apt-get install mozilla-plugin-gnash

As an aside from the original topic, if you are using Konqueror, run instead:

sudo apt-get install konqueror-plugin-gnash

If you keep the Adobe Flash Player plugin installed, you need to run this command to switch the 'mozilla-flashplugin' link in the 'alternatives' system between the former and Gnash:

sudo update-alternatives --config mozilla-flashplugin

Also, since the installation of that plugin adds a lot of links to the 'alternatives' system, definitely check what Flash plugins are pulled in by your browser, and if necessary, disable one or the other - Firefox only pulls in that linked to by 'mozilla-flashplugin'. In Chrome/Chromium and Opera, you can open the plugin settings by entering 'about:plugins' into the URL bar.

However, I've noticed that Gnash doesn't work with Vimeo at least; and with YouTube videos, it keeps on hogging the CPU when you pause the playback, unlike Adobe Flash Player, or any other embedded video player; but you can 'Quit' the Gnash playback via its context menu. Also, it's a similar, or even worse, resource hog as Adobe Flash Player. So, overall, you might not be so happy with it, in its current state.


Lightspark 0.5.7 was released recently which aims to bring improved graphic capabilities and stability. For a more detailed look at what it offers, please take a look here:

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Multimedia , Web Browser