Why Adobe Is Wrong to Restrict Flash Updates for Linux Users

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 24, 2012

Earlier this week, Adobe drew a lot of criticism from the Linux community, as it announced that it has partnered with Google on a "modern API for hosting plugins within the browser" and Flash Player for Linux, effectively requiring that Linux users use Google Chrome if they want updated versions of Flash. The move was widely interpreted as a potential blow to Mozilla's Firefox browser, because Adobe won't deliver and support new versions of Flash for users on Linux unless users have Google Chrome. Some observers are arguing that Adobe's move is no big deal, with one of the supporting arguments being that Linux has very little market share.  There are several reasons why it is a big deal.

Like it or not, Flash is a form of Esperanto on the web. Numerous analyses have determined that approximately 80 percent of the video housed on the web is Flash-based. Flash is also a platform that new applications get built around, so limiting its flexibility on Linux will ultimately box many Linux users out of using applications that they would otherwise choose to use.

A current ZDNet post asserts the following:

"...Ultimately, Adobe is right to ditch Linux, and while this could be a blow to Mozilla’s Firefox browser, overall it’s not really a big deal."

And the post continues:

"In terms of current usage, and growth, Linux is dead in the water...Outside of the kernel forming the foundation for Android (that platform is going places) and server use, Linux is a fringe platform, and it’s hard for a company like Adobe to justify continuing to support the platform."

This does not reflect the real processes that help Linux drive innovation along. Not only did Linux help form the foundation of Android, it helped form the foundation of Google's Chrome OS and other platforms, and it has spurred on innovative applications, development practices and much more. Market share for desktop Linux does not tell the whole Linux story. 

It's more likely that Adobe and Google have some kind of deal, the terms of which we don't know about. Over time, without the ability to work with new versions of Flash, many users will abandon browsers like Firefox to use Google Chrome. They won't have a choice. For now, Google helps fund Mozilla, but that arrangement may not last forever, and Mozilla works hard to keep Firefox relevant and popular.

The folks at Adobe understand that Linux and applications for it move along based on open principles, and Adobe's latest move is anything but open. It boxes users out of open decisions, and constitutes an unnecessary end-run in the direction of one and only one browser: Google's.