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Scribd moves to HTML 5, ditches Flash

Scribd moves to HTML 5, ditches Flash

Scribd - or a subset of documents, at least - is now available in iPad-friendly HTML 5.

HTML 5 - and, by extension, the iPad as a viable platform for browsing the full-fat web - got another high profile supporter this week as document sharing site Scribd pledged to move away from Adobe's Flash technology.

As reported over on TechCrunch, Scribd has started the work of completely removing its reliance on Flash to share high-quality digital versions of books, magazines, and other documents in favour of the open HTML 5 standard - without losing the fidelity and print-accuracy of the original Flash implementation.

The move is important in a number of ways: firstly, it gives Apple further ammunition for its "Flash is dead" stance vocalised by Steve Jobs recently while making Scribd accessible on its increasingly popular iPad slate, for which no Flash Player is available; secondly, it reduces the reliance on proprietary technologies that can bog down the web, potentially opening Scribd up for a wide range of devices that cannot - or will not - play back Flash content acceptably.

Jared Friedman, Scribd's chief technology officer and co-founder, told TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld that the company isn't taking the decision to scrap "three year of Flash development" lightly, but is choosing to "[bet] the company on HTML 5 because we believe HTML 5 is a dramatically better reading experience than Flash."

Currently, 200,000 of the site's most popular documents have already been converted to HTML 5 - and plans to convert the remainder of its content in the near future, after which it will become completely Flash free.

While support for HTML 5 is a good thing - especially for users who are unable to run a Flash Player plugin - the company risks alienating some users who are unable to use the new standard. Internet Explorer 9, which promises to bring full HTML 5 support to Microsoft's Windows platform, will not be available for Windows XP - forcing users onto an alternative browser if they want to use the future Flash-free version of Scribd, and potentially doing even more damage to Microsoft's sinking share of the browser market.

Do you agree that HTML 5 is the way forward and that Flash is an anachronism that is irrelevant on the modern web, or should companies be careful before they ditch a proven - if proprietary - system? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

15 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
lacuna 6th May 2010, 10:30 Quote
Quote:
...forcing users onto an alternative browser if they want to use the future Flash-free version of Scribd

Oh no.
Jamie 6th May 2010, 10:36 Quote
The more people that move away from IE the better.
eddtox 6th May 2010, 11:38 Quote
I'm all for it. Even though I can and do use flash on all my devices, I would love to be rid of it and just have HTML5.
Farting Bob 6th May 2010, 11:56 Quote
HTML5 is overrated. It does almost as much as flash, and if you use a flash version with GPU acceleration then HTML5 is usually slower/uses more CPU to playback videos.
Sure flash should die because its bloated, inefficient and has seen more holes in its time than Tiger Woods, but the recent love for HTML5 and hate for flash seems somewhat irrational at times.
cgthomas 6th May 2010, 12:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farting Bob
...and has seen more holes in its time than Tiger Woods
Are you sure about this, he has seen many and not only while playing golf
aussiebear 6th May 2010, 13:11 Quote
I'm all for moving to HTML5; because Flash does NOT follow the open-ness that is the web. Its a proprietary solution that is controlled by a particular single party. The web is supposed to be universal. It should NOT be relying on any one specific technology to function.

Flash is also an excellent vector for security issues; regardless of platform.

(a) There is no integrity mechanism that prevents running executables in the Adobe Flash cache folder; Unless you specifically enabled the prevention of executables on the OS you're running. (All you need to do is to trick a user into running an animation with malware embedded into the object.)

(b) It allows malware writers to target anyone using Flash. It means end-users suffer from a single point of failure from a security perspective. (No AV app will protect you from flaws in the programs you use.)

...And to be quite frank about the matter; Adobe's response to security issues in their solutions is downright shocking. (Both their Flash and Reader are vulnerable to issues that they still haven't patched for.)

The only issue with HTML5 is the video tag.

You've got Apple and Microsoft (with their MPEG-LA friends) on one side; wanting to push H.263 because they can get royalty payments out of it...They are also intentionally using FUD of software patents to scare others into not adopting royalty free alternatives. ie: By saying things in a deliberately vague manner, and not admitting to what specific patents Theora is infringing. (The point is to use the potential threat of patent infringements as FUD!)

Then you have Firefox and Opera refusing to accept this. They see that the web is supposed to be completely unencumbered and royalty free. So ANYONE is allowed to adopt it for $0, for any purpose. As a result, they both adopt Theora codec.


Google is in an interesting situation:

* They have the power to influence what video web codec is to be run via the popularity of Youtube.

* They have adopted both H.263 and Theora in their Chrome browser and Chrome Frame.
(So technically: Windows, OSX, and Linux are all supported.)

and...

* They can throw a complete monkey-wrench in MS/Apple/MPEG-LA's plans by introducing their VP8 codec in a completely open and royalty free manner.


The less dependent on Adobe products; the more secure we all are.
leveller 6th May 2010, 14:39 Quote
Guidelines and standards keep everything ticking over nicely (HTML). Flash is more harmful to mobile devices in terms of performance and stability than people seem to realise.
WarrenJ 6th May 2010, 14:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie
The more people that move away from IE the better.

You know my pain
rickysio 6th May 2010, 15:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by leveller
Guidelines and standards keep everything ticking over nicely (HTML). Flash is more harmful to mobile devices in terms of performance and stability than people seem to realise.

Really? My N900 has yet to crash/lag due to Flash.

Flash (when properly implemented into the browser, like MicroB) is the only thing that will lag if it requires too much CPU, not my device!
Arj12 6th May 2010, 16:14 Quote
I always experience problems with flash on most my pcs. Either they start giving errors or they work for a while and then I get something saying flash is causing my pc to be unresponsive! That's why I am happy the HTML 5 is at least starting to be taken up and hopefully in the future it'll become the mainstream!
Doesn't look like Adobe are going to be too happy though!
gavomatic57 6th May 2010, 17:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farting Bob
HTML5 is overrated. It does almost as much as flash, and if you use a flash version with GPU acceleration then HTML5 is usually slower/uses more CPU to playback videos.
Sure flash should die because its bloated, inefficient and has seen more holes in its time than Tiger Woods, but the recent love for HTML5 and hate for flash seems somewhat irrational at times.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's not about system load, it's about the fact that with Flash Adobe owns the internet, with HTML5, assuming VP8 gets adopted and open-sourced, nobody does - nobody has too much influence and nobody gets left out.

If HTML5 goes down the H264 route, it's going to require a $5m buy in from the likes of Mozilla and if Ogg Theora is adopted then there is likely to be much litigation from parasitic patent lawyers to come.
leveller 6th May 2010, 21:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickysio
Really? My N900 has yet to crash/lag due to Flash.

Flash (when properly implemented into the browser, like MicroB) is the only thing that will lag if it requires too much CPU, not my device!

rickysio ... in over 10 years of using Flash I can't count how many times I've witnessed lag and Flash crashing and this is from badly written flash programs - in fact I've even written some that lagged and crashed out. I can't say however that I've ever used a badly implemented install of flash to a browser as you suggest. Maybe you could give some examples of that?

And for the rest, Opera is now in on the debate: http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/05/06/opera.says.flash.relevancy.soon.to.change/
SaNdCrAwLeR 7th May 2010, 00:44 Quote
IE9 supports HTML5 and CSS3 it seems... are they finally deciding to catch up to times? :o
SinnerG 7th May 2010, 22:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farting Bob
HTML5 is overrated. It does almost as much as flash, and if you use a flash version with GPU acceleration then HTML5 is usually slower/uses more CPU to playback videos.

This will come down to how the browser developers intend to handle those H.264 streams. Just about every GPU can do H.264 accelleration these days and most of the codecs can hand off this task. In Win7, for example, even the Microsoft default codec does H.264 accelleration so pushing that video to a DirectShow graph will get GPU accelleration.

But I guess we'll see how it all pans out and how each browser will cope with it.
drclue 18th May 2010, 04:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farting Bob
HTML5 is overrated. It does almost as much as flash, and if you use a flash version with GPU acceleration then HTML5 is usually slower/uses more CPU to playback videos.
Sure flash should die because its bloated, inefficient and has seen more holes in its time than Tiger Woods, but the recent love for HTML5 and hate for flash seems somewhat irrational at times.

Flash is used as a wrapper for encoded content. By and large most of that video content is currently encoded using the H.264 CODEC.

It is this H.264 CODEC that has embedded support in computing hardware
not the Flash wrapper, which itself is just added bloat ware.

What this means is that HTML5 browsers are just as able to exploit those
hardware based decoders as Flash , but without the additional bloat of Flash.

Further more , those using Flash are exposing themselves to ever increasing security risks says Symantec.

As reported by Symantec (The security people)

In 2007 Adobe Flash Featured 11 security issues
In 2008 Adobe Flash Featured 16 security issues
In 2009 Adobe Flash Featured 24 security issues

Symantec further reported

[Among the vulnerabilities discovered in 2009, a vulnerability affecting both Adobe Reader and Flash Player was the second most attacked vulnerability. This was also one of four zero-day vulnerabilities affecting Adobe plug-ins during 2009. Two of the vulnerabilities were in the top five attacked vulnerabilities for 2009. Additionally, Adobe vulnerabilities have been associated with malicious code attacks such as the Pidief.E Trojan.]


Adobe is trying it's hardest to run a dis-information campaign to retain the flow from it's cash cow Flash, in the form of the $1300.00 / copy admission price to cover the cost of the tools required to author Flash content and nothing more.

As a BTW, just to head off a particular brand of stupid comments. I'm not an Apple Fan boy, nor do I own any of their products. I'm a web developer of 13 years and have been working with computers since before Microsoft or Apple even existed.
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