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BBC Keeps Android Flash Alive In the UK 102

Posted by timothy
from the media-as-well-as-the-media dept.
judgecorp writes "Although Adobe wants to can mobile Flash, the Android Flash app has returned to the Google Play store in the UK after disappearing earlier this month. It has come back because of pressure from large organisations, in particular the BBC, whose popular iPlayer video on demand service uses Flash. The Android app is back, apparently for as long as it takes the BBC to move to HTML5."
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BBC Keeps Android Flash Alive In the UK

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  • Get rid of it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @05:57AM (#41198469) Homepage
    It's obvious the BBC crapped their pants over this but that is what they get for using a proprietary solution. They need to focus on not being cheap and rewriting it in something else.
    • Re:Get rid of it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dwkns (2607961) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @06:09AM (#41198501)

      Crap them they did.

      The BBC bet their house on Flash. Their entire internet video delivery strategy relied on it. Not only the iPlayer and the various mobile apps but also the interface in what has become YouView the common IPTV platform they helped develop.

      Much back peddling and redevelopment had to be done and is still going on now. All on the licence payers dime.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is the BBC - their license payers don't use dimes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What else should they have used?
        The Dutch broadcasters chose to use Silverlight. That is an even bigger disaster.
        At least in Flash there is some compatability and cross-platform availability, aside from the mobile platforms who seem to want to kill it.
        But Silverlight is only available on Microsoft Windows.

        (don't talk about Moonlight, the apps they use don't work in Moonlight, only in Silverlight)

        • Re:Get rid of it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @08:29AM (#41198851) Journal

          They should have used open formats in open container files and made playback the client's problem. They should have remembered that their charter is to provide entertainment and information to the people of the UK, not to the subset that some third-party company decides are important. If the BBC had decided to broadcast TV in a format that required you to buy your TV from, for example, Samsung, then they'd have had the regulator slap them into oblivion, but somehow they get a free pass for doing the same thing on the Internet.

          • With that approach, you wouldn't be getting 5% of what is currently available on iPlayer and the BBC website - regardless of their charter, they do not have a carte blanche ability to release content they simply do not own into the wild, and they do not own most of the stuff that they broadcast.

            • Re:Get rid of it (Score:4, Insightful)

              by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @09:01AM (#41198975) Journal
              Their charter would be better served by publishing the stuff that they do have the rights to (i.e. in-house productions) and refusing to sign distribution contracts in the future that didn't meet their requirements.
              • by rathaven (1253420)
                And that works for the license payers who just want to watch content how? By limiting what they can access? Nice way to sink your service and send all your customers to Netflix.
                • And that works for the license payers who just want to watch content how? By limiting what they can access?

                  That is the kind of short-term thinking that the BBC is supposed to be able to avoid by not having to be dependent on shareholders. The BBC is a big customer, and also a company that sets trends for a number of other national broadcasters. If they make a stand on an issue like this, then the content producers are going to have to change. If they roll over, then they create long-term problems for themselves.

                  • by rathaven (1253420)
                    Personally I think its the basis of long term thinking for any company (which is what the BBC is but with different shareholders) - gain market, sell your goods, make profit, support those dependent upon you whom you are dependent upon.

                    Funnily that could almost sound like a reason for DRM if you believed that DRM would help achieve selling goods - which is why of course companies use it regardless of whether the reasoning to use DRM or not is flawed.

                    Yes, the BBC uses a lot of open source and I'm sure wo
                • I'd love to be able to use Netflix, but they don't work on linux since they dumped flash.
        • by aliquis (678370)

          Quicktime is(was..) the standard!

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          At first they used RealPlayer for streaming, so Flash was actually quite welcome when it arrived... OGG was suggested but there was a lack of browser support.

          This debate is missing the real point though. Everyone was in the same boat in those early days, but HTML5 has been around long enough now that people should have switched. If your infrastructure is so tied to Flash that you can't relatively easily switch then you are doing it wrong.

        • But Silverlight is only available on Microsoft Windows.

          And OS X.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, for mod points and a working account...and ISTR at the time they were warned about adopting flash as their 'solution'..

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Hear! Hear! Choose proprietary today : get bitten in the ass in ten years. And worse : you'll give these OSS hippies something to brag about. So chose wisely, and chose open technologies from day one.
    • Re:Get rid of it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by itsdapead (734413) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @07:13AM (#41198657)

      Yes, because when iPlayer launched back in 2007 everybody had a HTML5-compliant browser that supported a common video format... Oh wait, they didn't... and they still don't... Perhaps they should have tried RealPlayer instead...?

      Their silly insistance on Flash has meant that the iPlayer is only available on a limited handful of platforms (including PC, Mac, most new smart TVs TV, most half-decent PVRs...)

      Since flash video is a wrapper on a weird, unknown standard called "H264" that nobody else uses, they've been unable to support the most popular mobile platforms such as iOS (the perfectly good iPlayer app on my iPad is clearly just a result of the hallucinogenic drugs with which Apple impregnate their packaging). It's quite clear that the BBC should have gone for "webm" (even though it didn't exist at the time) because everybody uses Firefox.

      Everybody derided the introduction of Flash Player on Android when it was launched, with even Fandroids accepting that the lack of Flash on iOS was a good thing. The BBC should have known this and not relied on it.

      (At least, with Flash support removed from Android we can go back to the "Flash = spawn of Satan" meme without having to simultaneously believe that "Flash = essential tool for browsing the web").

      • And what's the iphone and ipad use? Flash is an especially awful for mobiles. Selecting that for Android was just stupid and lazy.
      • BBC iPlayer is the only reason I still tolerate the steaming pile of crap that is flash on machines. Flash is unreliable prone to crashes, a security nightmare of exploits and super cookies used to deliver crap adverts I don't want.

        Roll on HTML 5 iPlayer. Then I can uninstal flash for good.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm not sure whether that jibe about RealPlayer was serious or not, but the BBC have been using RealPlayer streams for radio services almost ever since they started putting shows online.

        • by itsdapead (734413)

          I'm not sure whether that jibe about RealPlayer was serious or not, but the BBC have been using RealPlayer streams for radio services almost ever since they started putting shows online.

          Perfectly serious. When they started streaming radio, RealPlayer was the only game in town - lots of people had it installed (and it was OK to start with until Real realised it didn't have an income stream, made it almost impossible to find the free player on their site and started pushing ads and bloatware). When they started iPlayer the vast majority of browsers already had Flash Player installed.

          I believe that the BBC did start work on their own Codec (Dirac) but whatever you favourite conspiracy theory

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Back then there were a lot of MP3 based radio stations and people rightly complained that the BBC should be using that format. Their excuse was DRM, but a lot of BBC content does not need DRM protection and in fact they now release it in MP3 format as "podcasts". Basically stuff which is 100% BBC content (no licensed music etc.), e.g. most of Radio 4.

            And besides which it wasn't exactly difficult to rip RealPlayer streams. But then again I suppose DRM has always been a fig leaf in that respect.

            • by Vanders (110092)
              DRM was never the issue. Streaming media is hard. Real offered products like RealMedia Server, which handled the encoding and streaming for you. They were the only game in town until Microsoft launched their streaming media (ASF) platform. MP3 never hadthe tooling around it that RealMedia did. End of story.
        • by Vanders (110092)

          ...the BBC have been using RealPlayer streams for radio services almost ever since they started putting shows online.

          They did indeed use RealPlayer when they launched on radio streaming (it's Flash based again these days). You know what? I was damn glad they did use RealPlayer, too. Because like it it or not, RealPlayer worked on Linux with Netscape, which meant I could listen to BBC Radio 1. The alternative was Windows Media, which certainly didn't work on Linux (not withstanding some horrible and very un

      • Yes, because when iPlayer launched back in 2007 everybody had a HTML5-compliant browser that supported a common video format... Oh wait, they didn't... and they still don't... Perhaps they should have tried RealPlayer instead...?

        Or they could have just made .mp4 files available for playback. Then, it would have been trivial for someone else to write an iPlayer app for Android, for iOS, for WebOS, for OpenBSD-on-VAX, or whatever. The BBC does not make televisions, they just make information available in a well-documented format over the air that other manufacturers can easily transform back into television programs. They should be doing the same thing online: providing the shows and the metadata in a well-documented format and en

        • Re:Get rid of it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by itsdapead (734413) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @08:58AM (#41198959)

          Or they could have just made .mp4 files available for playback.

          Yes, in a parallel universe where the BBC didn't have contracts with studios and artists to uphold, didn't have the obligation to raise money from international sales and didn't have Big Media Interests pouncing on any and every opportunity of accusing them of anticompetitive behaviour. Then they wouldn't have had to worry about bloody DRM and could give away .mp4s. Actually, in that universe they could probably have used Ogg. Also, note, that universe is populated entirely by techies who are happy to download a .mp4 from a list of files (then probably run it through ffmpeg to optimise it for their homebrew Linux media centre) and aren't remotely interested in having a nice UI that lets them browse programmes, stream live TV etc.

          That would be a nice universe to live in. Maybe the BBC can have Doctor Who visit it sometime.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            If they provided RSS type streams, one of all the shows "channels" and one for each show, someone would make a nice app almost immediately. Hell, I have 2 apps that would work out well on my phone already.

            It's the DRM, not the difficulty of turning a collection of files into an app on the web. Not only techies use RSS.

          • The BBC CHOSE to lie with those dogs. Are you telling me if the BBC said, 'all broadcasts in the UK must be DRM free', no one would take their money?
            • by itsdapead (734413)

              Are you telling me if the BBC said, 'all broadcasts in the UK must be DRM free', no one would take their money?

              ...what, when they could take money from ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky, Virgin et. al. instead and still have DRM? No.

              I don't know what powers you think the BBC has - I think you're confusing them with the government.

              Hopefully, someday, the TV, Movie and publishing industries will learn that the only thing DRM does is pisses off legitimate users while ensuring business as usual for the pirates. The Music industry got the message eventually allowing Apple, Amazon etc. to sell DRM-free music, so maybe the

          • by RDW (41497)

            That would be a nice universe to live in. Maybe the BBC can have Doctor Who visit it sometime.

            They already did that one. Look carefully and you can see Oswin typing 'get_iplayer --pid p00wqr14' in this week's episode.

        • Please, please - where can I get a smartphone that runs OpenBSD-on-VAX? (With Gnome-2)
      • by AvitarX (172628)

        As an android user, I think flash is still fairly important, but it is worthless on my phone. It simply does.jot work well at all.

        I disabled it, but too many sites see I'm on android and give me the flash version anyway. I am very happy that apple dissed flash though, it means that I can fake the site into thinking I'm an iPhone, and then access the flash free version.

      • by aliquis (678370)

        Seriously. I see what you did here but the biggest show stopper for HTML5 in Firefox?

        DAMN FUCKING AUTO-PLAY!

        Where's HTML video block?!

        Who think auto-play is a good idea?

        Why is web pages allowed to start the video?

        Just because I open a web page or 10 I don't want to play all the fucking video they contain.

        (Yeah I know there's some solution you can install if you run the debug or whatever version of Firefox it is but normal people don't use that.)

        Of course it's just as bad in any browser which play that shit

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Everybody derided the introduction of Flash Player on Android when it was launched

        No, I thought it was nice to have. By default it is in "click-to-load" mode so Flash advertising doesn't even waste my bandwidth, and there are plenty of sites where I might want to watch some bit of video that needs flash. News sites in particular. As you pointed out, back then there wasn't much else other than RealVideo and Windows Media Video.

        Flash itself isn't universally terrible either, it's just the way many web sites (ab)used it. There has been some pretty good artwork done in Flash, both animations

    • by deains (1726012)

      Unfortunately it's kinda tricky to focus on not being cheap when your budget is repeatedly cut, despite viewing figures and general approval going up. This is why we can't have nice things.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      It's obvious the BBC crapped their pants over this but that is what they get for using a proprietary solution. They need to focus on not being cheap and rewriting it in something else.

      Funny thing, I saw this over at the App Store... BBC iPlayer [apple.com]. So the platform that never had Flash can play iPlayer videos.

      What was the problem again? I would assume the BBC is smart enough to be able to do an Android version of the app as well. Maybe the only problem I can see is DRM issues with Android, but I'm sure it can b

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The web is full of flash and adobe should continue to release flash for mobile devices because of it. Just because they don't run on Apple tablets, doesn't mean there isn't a demand from Android tablet users.

  • by GordonBX (1059078) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @06:50AM (#41198583)
    iPlayer works just fine on my iPhone & iPad and the recent Olympics app streamed up to 24 channels of video live. Seems to me the BBC could do just fine without Flash so why the big problem?
    • by MLCT (1148749)
      They are coding an HTML5 version for android, but that takes time, and QA for an application that millions will download and use really matters. It would be a very bad idea to release a buggy HTML5 application.

      Since Adobe have behaved like a bunch of amateurs on flash for android (bin a framework on a whim without any sort of reasonable migration framework over a sensible amount of time), everyone else is playing catchup.

      The BBC are coding a new android application, but they don't have 10's of develo
      • by GordonBX (1059078)
        There is already an HTML5 website - it works fine in safari on the iPhone, so although I can understand the issue if they want a native (java) app for Android, but when all they are doing is searching for videos and then streaming them, what's wrong with them delivering the same one that works on the iPhone?
        • Because on an open platform like Android the filthy pirates would have a field day. iOS, being designed to prevent users from using their computer in ways inconvenient to Apple and other large corporations, is much more suited to preventing people taking advantage of HTML5's inconvenient lack of DRM.

          • Yeah, iOS deviced have DRM in the hardware, so the Beeb can stream to those devices knowing that license holders will be happy. Android doesn't have that DRM built in so license holders fear pircay will result.

            So, to watch BBC programmes on my Android device, because the Beeb won't run a non-flash version on Android, I'm forced to pirate their programmes (which is easy as pie). Erm ...

            Hang on ... I must've got something wrong ....

            Oh ... nope ... just a whole lot of piracy/DRM bollocks achieving absolutely n

  • Seems to be a lot of crapping on iPlayer in here.

    Surprised at this, because I find iPlayer is a hundred times better than the other services I've used: 4OD, 5Player, ITV and LoveFilm. (I'm not counting YouTube due to the content.) To be fair, a large part of this is probably that iPlayer downloads at about 9Mb/s for me.

    Incidentally my opinions on the services are roughly the opposite from what should reasonably be expected. YouTube can be the best, even the advertising is trivial. Admittedly "can be" is a b

    • by Spad (470073)

      iPlayer is awesome, the iPlayer Android app is fucking awful.

      Flash-dependant, doesn't work over 3G on most phones & networks, can't play in the background or with the screen off (for the Radio streams), to name but a few issues with it.

      Flash going away from Android and staying would be the best thing that could happen to the iPlayer app.

  • Here's my fix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by awjr (1248008) on Saturday September 01, 2012 @07:02AM (#41198621)

    It's a pain but you can get around it. You need to use the xscope browser and the flash apk. Works a treat on BBC and Channel 4 OD . Video I made about how to do it on a Nexus here [youtube.com]. Should work with other 4.1 devices.

    Personally this really sucks. The internet is playing catch-up to a forced move away from a technology. It's not that the device cannot run flash, just made it slightly annoying. Google's decision not to put it into Chrome is annoying at most :(

  • why is the internet even continuing to use flash if those greedy good for nothing fucks at Adobe is not going to contunie to develop & support it, they screwed Linux, and now they are screwing Android, but they suck up to google chrome browser and ms-win, flash should have died 10 years ago and/or went fully open source GPLv3 sheesh either let it live free or put it out of our misery and quit yanking people around with it you sorry cocksuckers at Adobe
  • Giving users the choice to install flash on their mobile devices is good thing. It should be the people not installing flash player that should dictate that flash dies on the platform, not pressure from tech elitists.

    Before it was removed from Google Play, the flash player was one of the top 5 things installed from the marketplace. That tells me that people wanted flash player. Adobe shouldn't have caved. They should have waited until people didn't want to install the flash player anymore. They should ha
  • The BBC originally based their iPlayer software around windows media player and were heavily criticised at the time for using a solution that blocked non-windows platforms, including Apple, mobile and Linux. This was principally because they wanted to DRM all of the downloaded files in the interests of 'rights holders', i.e. BBC worldwide (their commercial arm). This includes automatically deleting files after a certain time from your computer amongst other things. They were ordered by the BBC commission (b

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