Ding dong, the flash is dead

Born in the early 1990s as a simple-to-use and rather precocious digital animation program, Flash came into its own in early 2000s. While this then-11-year-old author was bringing in the millennium with milk in a champagne glass and large bottles of water at home in case shit got too Y2K, Flash was installed on billions of computers around the globe, and joyfully employed on interactive web pages, online games and playback video. Like Sisqo and Avril Lavigne, it was destined for greatness.

In 2005, it got better. Renegade lovechild YouTube elected to use Flash Player as a means to display compressed video content on the web, as did Netflix, giving Flash some solid credentials. It was the strategic cornerstone of Adobe’s $3.4 billion purchase of Macromedia Inc. in 2005. Bored nerds loved it. Digital agencies loved it (Gladeye has an extensive flash history, which you can (partly) explore here and here). 

With great allies, come greater enemies. It’s worth mentioning that the first iPhone was deliberately released without Flash compatibility. This, coupled with a salty statement from Steve Jobs, kicked off Flash’s fall from grace.

“Jobs has hit the nail on the head when describing the problems with Adobe, but not until after smashing his own thumb. Every criticism he makes of Adobe’s proprietary approach applies equally to Apple.” – John Sullivan, Free Software Foundation

Unfortunately, there were also gaping flaws in the system. In 2015 alone, Adobe needed to patch six major security holes in the platform. These were not the product of paranoid developers, they were major vulnerabilities that were (and still are) being used by hacker groups to attack millions of computers.

Recently, Mozilla has blocked Flash Player by default in the latest version of its browser. Since Firefox updates automatically, tens of millions of Adobe’s customers will simply disappear from its radar in the next few weeks. Alex Stamos, head of security at Facebook, followed in Steve Job’s footsteps and firmly advised Adobe to set an “end of life date” for Flash. And Stamos can’t be appeased with Bejeweled. Flash may have a billion customers, but Facebook has nearly two billion, and no sign of letting up.

Meet Pablo, late attendee to the Flash party and Gladeye graphic designer/illustrator. 

“Flash has been dying for at least four years now, but there is a chance that we may end up dragging its bloated corpse until the edge of the decade. The reason is that, even though the SWF format is full of vulnerabilities, the software itself is still among the most accessible and versatile tools out there for animation and gaming. Flash gave rise to the independent video games scene as we know it (Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac and Alien Hominid were built in flash and made it in the big time); it allowed artists to program basic interactions, and inversely, it allowed programmers to create gameplay with simple animations and crude graphics. Sadly, this is likely to be the dying gasps of a format that gave rise to the interactive web of today.”

The biggest concern at this stage is what will happen to the tens of thousands of strange, bad, average and excellent games which will no longer be playable when the plug is pulled. And that’s not cool. Better play one last round of Super Mario 63 while you can.

  • ‎Eleanor Barker is digital content manager at Gladeye
  • ​This story originally appeared on the Gladeye blog

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