Linux

Browsers will Flash Linux into the future or drag it into the past

Jack Wallen insists that it's time to let go of browsers that will tether Linux to the past. Do you agree?

Linux past

The announcement has gone out. The gist? Flash will no longer work with Chromium on Linux. Many of you are probably wondering, "What is Chromium?" Essentially, Chromium is the open-source version of Google's massively popular browser, Chrome. The big Flash debacle is simple: the old way of handling Flash (within a browser) is insecure. It was driven by the Netscape Plugin API (NPAPI) -- an architecture that dates back to Netscape Navigator 2.0. NPAI that's insecure, obsolete, and doesn't work well on smartphones and tablets -- which is a death knell in and of itself.

The replacement for the defunct plugin architecture is the Pepper Plugin API. This API improves upon NPAPI in a number of ways, but most importantly:

  • It sandboxes flash for security
  • It's built into the browser

I shouldn't have to go any further than those two statements. But there's a problem. The Chromium browser (the browser that many die-hard open source fans use) will not be able to enjoy the new PPAPI architecture without extracting it from Chrome. This should be a do-able tasks for users familiar to tinkering with Linux. However, for new users (or users who simply don't have time to spend on such endeavors), this will be a deal breaker.

Right now, nearly 50% of Linux users use Chromium. I get it, they want to stick with as much open source as possible (and many users think "Google is the new Microsoft"). But here's the thing (and it's something I've been harping on a lot lately) -- things change. Every computer platform on the planet has had to evolve or face losing serious ground.

I used Chromium a long time ago, when the official Chrome was not available for Linux. But the second Chrome became available, I switched. Why? Because I found it more reliable, up-to-date, and it had more of the plugins I needed. Eventually, I realized the idea of getting my work done had to take priority over a piece of software's inherent ties to open source. Don't get me wrong, I'd prefer to use open-source software, but when I'm faced with deadlines and an ever-growing need to get things done -- as long as I'm using Linux to do so, I'm good.

Here's my thing... I see, all too often, dyed in the wool open-source users refusing to install software by Google (or other entities), because they don't adhere to the GPL. From my perspective, what that does is take away from the possibilities ahead of Linux. Honestly, Linux will never succeed without embracing entities like Google. With companies like Google behind it, Linux could take over the world!

Is it more important to me to use open source 100% of the time, or is it more important that Linux succeeds? For me, that question answers itself. How? Think about it this way: If Linux doesn't succeed, open source cannot succeed.

At this point in the game, Linux needs the likes of Chrome and Flash and countless other pieces of software (and APIs) that may not be as GPL-friendly as the open-source community likes. But if Linux is to win over new users, it cannot, in any way, depend on those new users extracting APIs from one browser and rolling them into another. For new users to accept Linux as a desktop platform of choice, said platform needs to work out-of-the-box. That's what the new Chrome and Firefox bring to the table. With the PPAPI architecture, Flash will be more reliable and it will be baked into the browser. This means less work and fewer frustrated users.

In the end, that means more users, which is exactly what Linux needs.

I'm not saying that it's time to abandon the idea of the GPL -- not at all. What I'm saying is that at least 50% of the Linux faithful need to open their minds up to the idea of using non-GPL software. If it means Linux gains more support and a larger install base, how can you not see this as a winning situation?

I've been using Linux since the mid 1990s. I've watched it work through setback after setback, but it's continue to gain ground on the field of acceptance. My opinion is that Linux needs only a slight push to finally gain a much wider (and universal) reach. Could that "push" actually come from the open-source community itself? I believe so. Do you?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

17 comments
CFWhitman
CFWhitman

Well, any distribution based on a new enough version of Debian to have the pepperflashplugin-nonfree package available won't have much trouble installing Flash for Chromium.


In my experience Chromium is at least as up to date as Chrome, though Chromium is more likely to have experimental features.  Also, it seems like every Chrome plug-in works fine in Chromium.  I can certainly go to the Chrome web store and install Chrome apps.  Of course, I'm generally more of a Firefox user, but I do use Chrome regularly for various things.
mark
mark

A shortcoming of Chrome is that there are no builds available for non-Intel CPUs. If you are running Linux on something else such as ARM or PowerPC, you're out of luck. But you can run Chromium or other open source browsers.

Ubuntu4ever
Ubuntu4ever

The Pepper Plugin is available as part of the 14.04 repositories: 


http://www.webupd8.org/2014/01/pepper-flash-player-installer-for.html 


Just 2 lines in terminal, not a big deal. Also, I get it. You want common users who are afraid to tinker with their PC to embrace Linux. I came to Linux because Vista wouldn't run on my laptop, but I stayed for the tinkering because it can be very rewarding. 

jaclane299
jaclane299

Or is it more important that Linux OSs don't become another version of windows. with the userspace being half closed source and the kernelspace (modules included as kernelspace) become half closed source.


yes, open source matters otherwise we would just be making another version of windows.

Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com
Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com

Ok...so here's my opinion on it...and we're all entitled to our opinions aren't we? First, no...Linux does NOT need to "join" the ranks that are grabbing hold of Google....there are people who use Linux that DON'T use Chromium, and never will. There are browsers out there that work in Linux and use HTML5 and other protocols and plugins that make using Flash unnecessary. The future IS Linux based and the other proprietary software developers are realizing this and are making changes to counter it...such as building browsers that only work with their offerings,....(you'd think the others would have learned NOT to do that going off of Microsoft's attempts with Internet Explorer!) This was the reason a lot of people installed and downloaded other browsers....Opera....Firefox....etc. But for Linux to be "accepted" by the masses is NOT the end goal of Linux, those who want to use it will use it....and those who DON'T want to?....WON'T! Linux was designed to circumvent the problem of using software that required a license or that was not compatible with certain hardware. Yes.....you might sometimes have to jump through a few hoops in order to get things working just right, and sometimes you might NOT have to...as the various distros are getting more and more user friendly regarding an installer, a desktop interface and accessibility...gone are the days when you had no "choice" but to install Linux from a command line....(mind you...there ARE some distros that STILL use the CLI to install, but...a newbie would NEVER go that route....right?)....now you have the proper drivers for flat screen monitors.....touch screen tablets...and other peripherals that didn't exist in the past. I'm sorry for going off on a tangent like this....but in closing I think that Linux will be fine evolving and changing at its own pace, and for its own reasons rather than "just because" some proprietary software company decides they won't support of use a certain protocol anymore. If there's one thing the Linux and open source community have discovered, it's that there's ALWAYS OPTIONS!!! K....I'm done.....'nuff said!

JimTheEngineer
JimTheEngineer

"died in the wool" - I think that should be "dyed in the wool" (unless you're allergic to wool...)

Shawn Quinn
Shawn Quinn

is it about tethering linux to the past or is it about making sure content made in the past can still be accessed in the future?

ghostdogtree
ghostdogtree

Sorry dude, I never do this. But I signed up just to post this.


"Many of you are probably wondering, "What is Chromium?" "-----> "Right now, nearly 50% of Linux users use Chromium"......mmmmmh. 

"The replacement for the defunct plugin architecture is the Pepper Plugin API."...Guess I missed the update from the Departpment Of How To Use Linux And Funny Walks.

"Every computer platform on the planet has had to evolve or face losing serious ground." Who exactly is your audience again?

"I'd prefer to use open-source software, but when I'm faced with deadlines and an ever-growing need to get things done -- as long as I'm using Linux to do so, I'm good." Bravo. After all, unless you are an uber nerd, its impossible to do anything on linux.

"With companies like Google behind it, Linux could take over the world!"...oh gawd...you are going to do a piece on Is This The Year Of The Linux Desktop arent you?

"Is it more important to me to use open source 100% of the time, or is it more important that Linux succeeds?"....I give up, whats the answer? And how does this relate to anything?

"For new users to accept Linux as a desktop platform of choice, said platform needs to work out-of-the-box"...totally agree. Nothing worse than a case of "oh noo....my device has been infected by a linux OS and I have no idea how it got there."

In short, and here is my point, it's like you choose a word cloud of everything trending about the term linux and then crammed them into an article 2 minutes before deadline. I expected better. 

tzvish
tzvish

This is not true to all cases,
Like many, I'm using an ARM based computer,
chrome can't be installed on it - so I have to use chromium.

That's the reason I use chromium.


Ndiaz.fuentes
Ndiaz.fuentes

@ghostdogtree


>"Many of you are probably wondering, "What is Chromium?" "-----> "Right now, nearly 50% of Linux users use Chromium"......mmmmmh. 


Most Linux users know what chromium is. However, most users don't run Linux, so they might not know what it is.



>"The replacement for the defunct plugin architecture is the Pepper Plugin API."...Guess I missed the update from the Departpment Of How To Use Linux And Funny Walks.


Don't know what your problem is with this sentence.



>"Every computer platform on the planet has had to evolve or face losing serious ground." Who exactly is your audience again?


The author's audience is the general tech/it crowd, a crowd that realizes that this sentence is true. It's why MS tried to go metro-first with Windows 8 (though that bet hasn't paid off) and why Apple decided to make a strong move into mobile in 2007 (a move that did pay off).



>"I'd prefer to use open-source software, but when I'm faced with deadlines and an ever-growing need to get things done -- as long as I'm using Linux to do so, I'm good." Bravo. After all, unless you are an uber nerd, its impossible to do anything on linux.


Again, not sure what your problem is with this sentence. Are you pro or anti Linux? Most things can be achieved easily on common distros, but extracting an API is not something a common user will do. That's what the article is about: if the common user can't even properly set up a browser, they won't bother with Linux. 



>"With companies like Google behind it, Linux could take over the world!"...oh gawd...you are going to do a piece on Is This The Year Of The Linux Desktop arent you?


I agree that the wording is silly and cliched, but he has a point.



>"Is it more important to me to use open source 100% of the time, or is it more important that Linux succeeds?"....I give up, whats the answer? And how does this relate to anything?


Chrome (which is already set up with the Pepper API), is not GPL friendly, and thus, not really open source. So the question is: stick with the open-source, hard to set up option or go with the non-FOSS-friendly, but simpler, browser? The author is explaining he prefers the simple option, as long as it's on Linux, because it will help attract common users. This is the entire point of the article. So if you didn't understand this, I can see why you didn't understand the article. 



>"For new users to accept Linux as a desktop platform of choice, said platform needs to work out-of-the-box"...totally agree. Nothing worse than a case of "oh noo....my device has been infected by a Linux OS and I have no idea how it got there."


The idea here is that if Linux is to be accepted as a pre-installed OS (as in, for OEMs to start shipping systems with it), it's important that all the software works out-of-the-box. Which is why he's willing to sacrifice the FOSS friendly Chromium in favor of Chrome.


bltsandwich1
bltsandwich1

@ghostdogtree More often than not articles like this are done as a adhoc, one-offs of pure awfulness that give the thing that we both love so much a bad name.

gamesb00k
gamesb00k

@tzvish Single most useful contribution - you win the internet today!  (or at least the Linux driven part of it ;)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

@Ndiaz.fuentes 

The post you replied to appears to be an attempt by a Windows fanboi to emulate actual snark.

Tim Jordan
Tim Jordan

@NickNielsen @Ndiaz.fuentes He put the snark there because of the slow death which Microsoft is going through right now. Some in IT skipped college because the game like interfaces for programming on Windows made computer programming accessible to kids so this allowed companies to pay a programmer a child's wage so companies liked the cost savings. Now with cloud computing cutting costs even greater, the tables have turned and Linux programmers are in greater demand now so Microsoft now looks like it is going away which means those jobs are going away also so these guys are going to have to flip burgers for a living and that is why he made those snarky remarks.

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