back to article 50 million user Scribd scraps Flash for HTML5

Scribd - the document sharing site that boasts 50 million unique users a month - has told the world that after three years and "multi-millions" of dollars of development on Flash, it's ditching the beleaguered platform in favor of the fledgling HTML5 standard. Company co-founder and CTO Jared Friedman announced the move this …


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  1. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Just shows

    Browser plugins cripple the advancement of HTML and the web. If something isn't possible in the browser without a plugin then propose a standard, let people review it and improve it.

    This is how the net used to work, people put out an RFC and others commented, it was then implemented.

    POP3, NNTP and SMTP all started that way.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    Never heard of them.

    But in any case, anyone who actively excludes all their MSIE users is either a meganerd who'll cut his nose to spite his face, has taken someone's shilling and is now merely a publicity device for another company with an agenda, or is lying in order to exploit a bandwagon and gain publicity.

    Is what they really mean... we've finished our Flash system, which now needs no more work. So any changes in the future - at a time when HTML5 is not just a platform for nerds to organise who's-got-the-biggest-dick competitions - will probably involve a slow change over to HTML5 instead of just continuing development in new versions of Flash?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      I guess you missed the part where they said their system would be compatible with IE all the way back to IE6.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        HTML5 in IE6?

        How are they going to get it to work in IE6 if they're going to "scrap Flash for HTML"?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Open it up!

    Enough with the closed source lock in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Jobs Horns

      Flash is open

      SWF is an open and completely documented format. Anyone is free to use it. All you need is an open source compiler and development tools and Adobe don't get a look in.

      Just because Adobe's own Flash creator is closed source doesn't mean Flash itself is closed anymore than creating a PNG in Photoshop makes that a closed format.

      Where are all the open sauce mouthpieces to go and make source development tools and a player? SWF is an open standard so there's nothing stopping them doing all of that other than the licensing issues of h.264 in the player. The open saucers can make they own Flash player that does Ogg instead.

      Like GIMP, the Flash open sauce projects will always be pale imitations of the industry standard closed source commercial offering.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        RE: Flash is open

        "Like GIMP, the Flash open sauce projects will always be pale imitations of the industry standard closed source commercial offering."

        Well, I've got the official Adobe plug in. Does this mean that an "open sauce" version would use up even more CPU time and crash even more often?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Open source Flash

          "Does this mean that an "open sauce" version would use up even more CPU time and crash even more often?"

          Yes! Terrifying prospect, don't you think?

      2. Martin Owens

        Er no

        SWF is about as open as SMB (the windows networking protocol)

        Just because some valiant hackers have reverse engineered each swf version, does not make it an open standard, at least not with newer swf versions.

        Now HTML on the other hand, that's an actual open standard, in both publishing and formation senses of the word.

        1. Thomas Bottrill

          RE: Er no

          SWF file format specification:

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Martin Owens

 the wrong answer, but thanks for playing!

          Next time you want to play the quiz, first brush up on all those open source Flash websites, eh?

  4. ratfox

    Silicon Valley cult

    Don't say that, you will never get invited to their events now!

  5. Guz


    "The iPad is controlled by a Silicon Valley cult that has a pathological aversion to Flash"

    Damn straight Skippy! But beware of the fanboi backlash.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    How can these people complain about a "browser-in-a-browser problem where we end up duplicating functionality in the user's browser ourselves", when their own offering is a JavaScript hack running inside of a browser that badly, inadequately tries to replicate all of the good, familiar desktop metaphors and shortcuts that could easily be done in an app that accessed the Web itself? This Web app stuff is topsy-turvy rubbish.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    oh yeh

    YES! An so the demise begins..... ;D

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @oh yeh

      >YES! An so the demise begins..... ;D

      1 down, 15 million to go...... ;D

  8. jai

    Opera too

    I hear the guys at Opera have said they don't see much of a future for using Flash for video either

  9. Stu

    Hahahahah DIE!

    @AC - Friday 7th May 2010 03:46 GMT

    Wholeheartedly agreed! Flash deserves to be consigned to the scrap heap - god knows it resembles real scrap.

    Keep up the good effort Scribd. Let us sincerely hope that a huge flow of hi profile sites will do the same. Its a shame it wont end the same abrupt way the Blu-Ray + HD-DVD kerfuffle did a couple of years ago.

    I fear just one more case of having to restart my locked up browser will make my head explode. And its only a 5 year old laptop, 4Gb of RAM with a fresh install of Windows on it!

    It doesn't help that a lot of flash + gfx heavy sites rely too on screens over 1024x768 pixels, no good. I sincerely help that little trend ceases.

  10. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Scribd itself is quite annoying.

    Nobody made them use Flash. They could use PDF :-)

    Now I think they're trying to say that your dissatisfaction with their system is Flash's fault. Well, they chose to use Flash in the first place. And I don't think a Flash-less Scribd actually will be so much fun.

    As for outlawing all browser plugins, all third-party extension of browser's capability - that's quite an extreme idea., really. I mean I generally prefer the Web without Flash OR graphics, just text content. But it has its place.

    And as for Flash as the Web's default video service - that was always an odd thing to me. But it was and is done because browsers just didn't have the capability in an adequate implementation, and of course Internet Explorer particularly - the majority browser of the world, by a long way.

    And if there weren't plugins to compete with bare browser facilities, and, in some way or other, take away a share of their revenue, browsers wouldn't advance - only competing with each other, and that not very vigorously. Look at how long it's taken to get the progress we've got. No, plugins allow innovative technology to be pushed into the web by brave little startup companies with ideas - and eventually fused into the browser if they are worthwhile.

  11. Mike Powers

    Isn't reproducing functionality the whole idea?

    "This leads to a browser-in-a-browser problem where we end up duplicating functionality in the user's browser ourselves."

    I thought that was the whole idea! You build your Flash app and it runs the same way in any browser that has Flash installed, whether it's IE or Netscape or Opera or Safari or whatever. Yes, you have you duplicate some things, but those things work the same way EVERY TIME, and appear in the same place EVERY TIME.

  12. C-N

    Scribd without Flash

    Without Flash. Scribd might become usable.

    1. Walking Turtle

      Without Pastel-Blue-On-Glaring-White...

      Web2.x fontwork might become LEGIBLE. So is it Generational Warfare by Means of Colored Pixels visited on We Elders who Actually Invented the Internet? Do Today's Web-Surfers use Secret Cellophane Tints in Cardboard Frames to actually get down and *read* that ill-chosen and all-too-common shite-based Web 2.0 font/color scheme? (Must try *that* idea PDQ, come to think of it... Might beat the ol' click-drag 'Highlight the Whole Criking Page' Technique, too-commonly employed just to catch the Gist of the Story in Weird but Legible Contrasting Hues on all manner of such ill-tinted 2.0 pages as those.)

      Or have the Badgers simply decided to take the whole thang over and force all our Elder Eyesight down the Badger-Hole?

      Badgers badgers badgers... Mushroom mushroom... Ugh, a Snake...

      AlternateIcon=Grenade2.0. For the pastel-palette kiddies, Ghawd luvvum'.

  13. Masnak


    Posted Friday 7th May 2010 23:03 GMT

    The Register is a pathological cult who never has a good word for Apple. I wonder why after 25 years + year after year the M$ fools have said that Apple is going bankrupt and yet today they have taken over 2nd pace from M$ on Standard & Poor's rating moving closer to Exxon. I'm laughing all the way to the bank. M$ is running scared of both Apple and Google. Now the softies will come in and blast me and call me a fanboi.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      apple wasn't mentioned in the article. wtf are you talking about? do you have some impairment we should be aware of?

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I guess I should read the WHOLE article before I spew forth. Nevertheless: cult it is, so I still disagree with your post and cannot understand your rant. Ubuntu/GNU/Linux forevaaaah! And sod the profits!

  14. austin cheney

    Security failure

    While it appears to be a fanboys wet dream to see Flash die I fail to see how this change offers users any benefit, but certainly increases harm. It seems in media and advertising based web businesses usability is everything and security is a pain in the ass tack on. Clearly, no thought to security was considered in this migration, but when you sell advertising or offer media based services it seems security is entirely irrelevant. Logically, though, why should they care? The security problems will exist primarily on the client side, typically execute on load, are silent to the end user, and they generate revenue regardless. Afterall, its not as though client-side scripting from the web is a bastion of security or that exploits or rare. Its all that Symantec measures anymore in its annual Internet Security Threat Reports.

    Before anybody starts crying that I don't know that I am talking about provide any example of XSS exploits used to maliciously alter swf files. You can't, because swf files are compiled to bytecode. They have to be created with a malicious intent, or they are not malicious. This can never be said of JavaScript that is what makes Canvas interactive.

    If somebody ever wrote a Firefox plugin that prompted users any time JavaScript executed potentially malicious code, such as back doors for other malicious code or exportation of personal information via unauthorized AJAX, people would say far different things of such migrations. But, since the security problems don't slap us in the face with obtrusive prompts, they must clearly not exist. Out of sight out of mind, right?

  15. jimhsu

    Great, but

    Great effort, but the text quality is just not there yet (for most browsers).

    Flash output:

    Firefox output:

    Firefox with experimental Direct2D acceleration (only nightly builds):

    The last one is looking close, but still doesn't look as good. The firefox regular (which most browsers will display) just looks like crap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Call that bad font rendering?

      I've seen worse!

  16. Anonymous Coward

    well now

    I do genealogical research as a hobby. I'd often google for info and something interesting would come up on scribd. At first it was great, all these books available with useful stuff. Then after a while using it I noticed that the browser would hang, sometimes X would freeze solid. Narrowed it down to scribd----roughly fifty percent of the books loaded from scribd would freeze up everything requiring a kill on the browser or sometimes even a ctrl-alt-bksp bailout from X, thereby losing everything else I was working on as well. Got so bad I added a line in my hosts file ( to ensure scribd was inaccessible---for any reason, ever. Now maybe I'll be able to access that information again after however many years!

  17. gimbal
    Thumb Up

    "Controlled by a SIlicon Valley Cult [...]"


  18. Derek Foley

    HTML5 a replacement for Flash <LOL>

    Being a Flash Developer I've often read the postings and news reports about HTML5 being the Flash Killer.

    Having built a lot of standalone apps with Flash over the years I find it hard to believe that HTML 5 is ever going to rival the features in Flash.

    Experience tells me that embedded font rendering is a major reason why most brands choose Flash for interactive media, because they can't use the relevant branded fonts in other solutions - it looks crap.

    The latest Flash Player even moves into dynamic typographical layout territory and makes use of overflow text boxes, something that you'll see in Quark Xpress, Illustrator and Indesign.

    Without producing an definitive list of other things that won't work in HTML5, these other things spring to mind...

    How is HTML 5 going to:

    handle tween animation?

    handle in-stream video metadata?

    Hardware 3D acceleration?

    Real-Time text effects, e.g. glows, drop shadows etc.

    Easily fill a screen with content irrespective of its "design size"

    Interface with external devices, e.g. webcam streams etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Wiping the <LOL> off your face

      You clearly haven't even bothered to look into how web pages work beyond Flash, but here's some info anyway.

      "Experience tells me that embedded font rendering is a major reason why most brands choose Flash for interactive media, because they can't use the relevant branded fonts in other solutions - it looks crap."

      All the major browsers now support embedded fonts via CSS3. When people talk about using HTML5, obviously that implies the use of CSS and Javascript. Recently, the major browser companies have even agreed on a standard font format to appease font companies who need to protect their IP.

      "The latest Flash Player even moves into dynamic typographical layout territory and makes use of overflow text boxes, something that you'll see in Quark Xpress, Illustrator and Indesign."

      The latest Flash player uses Webkit to render all that stuff. It's practically Safari with a load of plugins and scripting libraries. So, anything Flash can do, Safari can do. And so can any other browser. Opera can rotate text and skew it and do all sorts of stuff.

      "handle tween animation?"

      CSS3 transformations. I use them and they look nice in Opera, Safari and Firefox.

      "handle in-stream video metadata?"

      To do what? HTML5 browsers have in-built players that read the meta data.

      "Hardware 3D acceleration?"

      Where have you been? That's the big fuss MS are making about IE9. Opera's new Vega graphics library was designed for hardware acceleration, and there are even test builds from years ago on YouTube showing it using hardware acceleration to do interesting stuff. The current version of Opera has it disabled by default, but they didn't design it to do hardware acceleration for no reason. Clearly all the major browsers are moving toward it as Web 2.0 Apps have provided the necessity for speed. The first step was speeding up Javascript, the next will be hardware acceleration.

      "Real-Time text effects, e.g. glows, drop shadows etc."

      Old news. CSS does these already. I've been using box and text shadows for a couple of years now.

      "Easily fill a screen with content irrespective of its "design size""

      But that's how HTML has always worked. It's only when someone starts specifying absolute widths that you run into problems. CSS has rules to cope with different screen sizes, aspect radios, portrait or landscape, units for setting text sizes, line heights or boxes based on the width or height of the viewport, and a whole lot more. And then there are browser features such as zooming and fit-to-width.

      "Interface with external devices, e.g. webcam streams etc."

      Yes? All covered by the HTML5 'devices' spec. You really do need to look into these things before preaching and LOLing from your porch rockingchair in Hicksville.

      And just wait until you see what the <canvas> element does! You'll feel like a flat Earther being told the world is round!

      Flash is the only viable solution to these things today. But the web moves quickly and empires fall. Mosiac, Netscape, IE, Yahoo, Perl, XHTML, Frontpage, table layouts, Java applets, Shockwave. You name it, they all have their day and Flash is no different. I don't know if Flash will completely disappear to be replaced by Adobe using something totally new based on HTML/CSS/Javascript libraries, or if it will just become a specialised tool for obscure websites. But there's clearly an industry-wide disliking for Flash and the momentum means Flash has certainly seen its best days.

      Adobe will always be able to offer greater functionality than HTML5, but the question is whether most people will find HTML5 adequate. I think they will, especially as most complicated things *can* be done with a lot of Javascript and the <canvas> tag. Most websites won't even have to write all their own javascript, they'll just use libraries/frameworks, in the same way they currently use JQuery or MooTools.

      Because HTML5 also includes offline storage and database support, it also means it's possible we'll see javascript libraries available to install on a browser rather than individual websites, meaning the user can install once and the relevant websites will just work, just like using plugins. There's already one major browser company planning something like that...

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