Geek Speak: A Farewell to Flash


With beginnings that date back to the 1990s, Flash had a good run.  It enjoyed a diverse use among website, game, and app developers as a fairly simple way to make components dynamic. As YouTube’s popularity grew, Flash gained even more ground as an easy way to encode videos to be uploaded to YouTube.  Yet, as time marched on, newer, more secure technologies gradually took the spotlight.  Here's a break down of the situation:

Poor Performance & Security Issues

Flash became popular quickly because it is so easy to work with, making it the top choice for amateurs, which led to a lot of really good and bad Flash development. Over the years, Flash has been noted for having some of the worst security records.  The de-coding and re-coding process necessary to run Flash files is a significant battery suck, and to add insult to injury, Flash was also dinged for not performing well on mobile devices.  The final straw for many is that downloading a plug-in is a requirement to play Flash animations.  Newer, more popular technologies like HTML5 play right in the browsers without a plug-in.

Apple gave it the cold shoulder

While Apple products did not support Flash prior to 2010, this is when Steve Jobs publicly proclaimed his disapproval of Flash in his Thoughts on Flash memo which explained that Apple did not want to reduce the reliability and security of their products (iPhones, iPods, iPads) by adding Flash.  He goes on to note that "Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short."

Google gave it the cold shoulder

As of September 1, 2015, Google no longer allows automatically loading Flash advertising. The ads must now be clicked to play.  A new setting in Google’s browser, Chrome, also prohibits autoplaying advertising.

Pretty much everybody else gave it the cold shoulder

Back in July, Mozilla Firefox also started blocking Flash plugins due to increasing security issues.  Around the same time, Facebook's security chief, Alex Stamos, tweeted that the time had come "for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash."

Even their long time buddy, YouTube, severed ties with Flash in early 2015.

Adobe reached the final stage of grief - Acceptance

After years of holding out hope, Adobe finally got the hint from big players like Apple, Google, Mozilla, and Facebook and is also turning its back on Flash and encouraging the use of HTML5 where possible. Details can be found in their "FLASH, HTML5 AND OPEN WEB STANDARDS" news post. They even make it easy by allowing Adobe Flash creators to export their work to HTML5 within their app.

While they say they will still support Flash (mostly regarding on security), Adobe is even changing the name of their animation app from Flash Professional CC to Animate CC.  By acknowledging the fact that better options are available but not completely doing away with Flash, Adobe is still leaving the final fate of Flash in the hands of web developers. 

Accepting the downward spiral of Flash puts Adobe in a better position to plan for the future.  They are actually even embracing the HTML5 technology that is responsible for much of what is making Flash obsolete.  As Flash fades away in the web world, it will still live on a bit longer in the web gaming and video arena as HTML5 and other standards fully mature to meet the needs of those areas.

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