Adobe made headlines last week by saying it would discontinue development on its mobile Flash Player after the upcoming 11.1 release. This week, "Occupy Flash", a campaign by anonymous developers, is calling on users to uninstall the Adobe Flash plugin.
With momentum clearly against Flash, is your business ready to go Flash-less? If so, here's how to start.
1. Identify dependencies
Flash won’t disappear overnight, and despite the push to kill it you don’t need to panic yet. Over time, though, developers and software will stop working with Flash, which could leave you in a bind if you haven’t planned ahead. The first step is identifying all the ways your business relies on Flash by making a list of the tools your company relies on, and then finding out if any of them depend on Flash.
This will likely involve conversations with your IT staff, development people and vendors for third party provided tools. It’s not just in-house developed tools, but also common web-based services like Google Analytics and Picnik, as well as lesser known tools including online business card designers and B2B checkout pages, where you’ll find Flash in unexpected places.
Your initial search for Flash should identify the most important Flash-based systems, but it’s likely it won’t find them all. Ironically, the best way to prepare for uninstalling Flash is by uninstalling it.
You don’t need to remove it from every computer and disrupt business. Instead, choose from two less disruptive test methods.
2. Uninstall Flash
If you want to see what life will be like without Flash, set up one computer without any Flash-related components. You can then use this as a test workstation where workers from various positions can run through a typical day's work, discovering along the way any places where the lack of Flash prohibits them from completing their tasks.
A second option might be a little more work for your IT staff, but will allow your workers to use their current computers. Instead of uninstalling Flash, install a second browser that doesn’t include the Flash plugin. Firefox is a good option on both PC and Mac if it’s not already your standard browser.
Otherwise, use Internet Explorer on the PC and Safari on the Mac. Don’t use Google Chrome, as it has Flash built-in, which obviously wouldn’t make for a good test.
Whichever browser you decide on, test it on the OccupyFlash.org page. If you see, “Flash is not installed on this browser. Hurray!” from the "Join the Fight" page, you’re ready to test. Have your staff try using that browser for a day, noting any duties they weren’t able to complete due to the lack of Flash.
3. Prepare for the end
Knowing how your business currently relies on Flash, you can now make plans for how you’ll continue without it. For Internet and Intranet sites, as well as internally developed tools, migrating functionality that relied on Flash over to HTML5 will be the best option for most. For services provided by third party vendors, ask if they plan to move off of Flash, and if you’re not comfortable with their plans, begin looking at the offerings of their competition.
Flash never got started on iOS, and was barely established for Android and Blackberry devices, so its mobile days are numbered. On the desktop, it will still be around for a while, but its death seems inevitable.
Waiting around for it to happen isn’t a good idea. Best to find your dependencies now and prepare than to be caught by surprise one Flash-less day.