Back in June I wrote about Adobe dropping support for Flash Player on 64-bit Linux. Since the existing version of the 64-bit Linux Flash client had a serious security vulnerability staying with the last release isn't really an option. I also wrote about the various ways to get around the problem, none of which were entirely satisfactory. At the time the developers of SalixOS, a Slackware derivative with a 64-bit build, chose to add Gnash, an FOSS alternative to Flash, to their repository. They also configured the repository to have the automated updates available in that distribution replace Flash 10.0.45.2 with Gnash 0.8.7.
I found Gnash 0.8.7 to be more than a bit problematic. In general it worked on something less than half the websites I tried which required Flash. YouTube videos worked exactly once. If you tried to watch a second video you received this message: "An error occured, please try again later". The workaround was to prevent YouTube from setting cookies or clearing your browser of all YouTube cookies between videos. Finally, Gnash 0.8.7 was incredibly resource hungry, often driving my CPU to 100% usage and bringing things on my system to a crawl. All in all, this was still far from a decent solution.
Early this week Gnash 0.8.8 was released. Despite the small increment in version number, which would make this seem like a minor maintenance release, the difference between version 0.8.8 and the earlier 0.8.7 is like night and day. First, a lot of websites that did not work with Gnash before seem to work just fine now. My thoroughly unscientific sample indicates that roughly two thirds of the sites I visit which use Flash are now functional. In addition, YouTube now works 100% of the time without having to clear or restrict cookies.
The only bad news is that Gnash 0.8.8 is still extremely CPU hungry. My recommendation is to use a flashblock plugin if one is available for your browser of choice and only turning on the Flash support on a case-by-case, as needed basis. Firefox, Seamonkey and Opera all have flashblock plugins available.
Many Linux distributions still have Gnash 0.8.7 or even older versions in their repositories. The getnash.org website has ready-to-go 0.8.8 packages for Debian, Fedora, gNewSense and Ubuntu. In addition, the package in the SalixOS repository should work with 64-bit Slackware 13.1. SalixOS does not package Gnash for 32-bit systems. Of course, if there is no package for your favorite distro and you don't want to wait for one you can always compile from the source code.
Gnash 0.8.8 is still far from a perfect solution and there are still many websites where it simply does not work. On the other hand, if you need a secure native 64-bit solution or if you use another system architecture not supported by Adobe (i.e.: a MIPS processor based system) then the latest version of Gnash may finally offer you an acceptable alternative. It certainly is worth a try.