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The rise, fall and death of Flash: a web story with many flaws but an epic legacy

December 31 will not only end a fateful year due to the coronavirus pandemic. An era of the internet will also close. Adobe announced a few months ago will stop updating and supporting Adobe Flash Plugin, thus putting the definitive epitaph to a software that for years has been the engine that has made many websites more functional and accessible … Until its own evils outweighed its benefits.

Because around Flash has been conglomerated for years already several technical failures of draft which made it a perfect entry point for security concerns. Adobe already announced the termination of this service some time ago, however, his death has been agonizing and slow.

To prevent Flash crashes from surviving you, Adobe advises manually uninstalling it from browsers and devices, and will also automatically block Flash content from January 12th.

Thus ends the story of a solution that was a web standard for a long time -Anyone who has studied some web design until 2015 has hardly had to present a map, or content created with Flash-, and that despite all its defects, it also deserves to be remembered for its enormous legacy.

A legacy that, by the way, will continue to be preserved in the essential archive.org, where, through an emulator called Ruffle, you can continue to enjoy some of the most historical animations and creations made with Flash: from videos that once triumphed on YouTube to infographics, going, of course, by video games.

A program born to make the web accessible

Before Flash, web pages were plain text constructs with very non-visual hyperlinks. The difficulties of making it more visual largely resided in the weight and bandwidth at the time to add images, and in an unimaginable way, video or animations.

In that context appeared FutureSplash Animator, a software that allowed adding interactive multimedia content and animations that would change the appearance of the web forever, creating the first visual interfaces. It was the year 1996, and FutureWare, the company that had put this solution on the market, which made it possible to reduce the weight of graphics and animations for the web environment drastically, had hit the mark.

For example, The Simpsons website was launched with this technology and it looked like this in 1996:

Its disruption soon caught the attention of buyers. In just a few months, Macromedia acquired FutureWare, renaming the product as Flash and adding the possibility of supporting audio.

However the great paradigm shift meant that Flash started to support video with your FlashPlayer on the web, something that soon became standard, and that for example was the basis for the launch of YouTube in 2005.

Those were the golden years of Flash, in which all browsers had it enabled to enjoy what web pages, now really, were capable of providing in terms of multimedia content. 2005 is also the great business change, when Adobe won the bid for Macromedia, acquiring it for a sum of around $ 3.5 billion.

The beginning of the end was put by Steve Jobs

That golden age lasted only five years. With Adobe improving each time the functionalities of Flash and making it a basic in any internet connection, he began to work on integrations in the mobile market … But then the first blow came.

End of Flash supportPhoto: David Ortiz | Explica.co.

In 2010 Steve Jobs published a letter on the Apple website entitled Thoughts on Flash in which he addressed several doubts he had about this solution, which were already in line with the security problems it caused, the fact that Flash, as standard as it was, relied on Adobe, and the performance problems that it could pose for the battery of mobile devices. And he made a drastic decision: he would not allow Flash on his iPhones and newly launched iPads.

Shantanu Narayen, then CEO of Adobe, was quick to respond, starting a dialectical war, blaming Apple’s ability to hang for its own reasons rather than Flash’s fault.

That each give Jobs the rank of visionary he wants -Microsoft has also been looking for alternatives to Flash for some time-, but the truth is that that was the beginning of a very abrupt end. In the following graph you can see how, since 2011, the share of Flash presence in browsers began to plummet while JavaScript took over the entirety.

! function () {“use strict”; window.addEventListener (“message”, (function (a) {if (void 0! == a.data[“datawrapper-height”]) for (var and in a.data[“datawrapper-height”]) {var t = document.getElementById (“datawrapper-chart -” + e) ​​|| document.querySelector (“iframe[src*='”+e+”‘]”); t && (t.style.height = a.data[“datawrapper-height”][e]+ “px”)}}))} ();

Goodbye YouTube

The path to death was marked. Since 2011, the W3C, the international consortium that sets the recommendations for the Internet, began to bet on HTML5, a revision of the language that already managed to cover the qualities of Flash. YouTube, which until now had based its technology on Flash, the new standard was passed in 2015 and Google would remove the ability to enable ads and discouraged search results using this development.

In 2017, 3 years ago, Adobe made it official that it would close Flash in 2020, a date that has come to end what was an internet era with the exception of China, where since 2018 the Chongqing company has distributed Flash by license, and it seems that it will continue to be active, at least for now.

The article The Rise, Fall and Death of Flash: A Faulty Web Story but an Epic Legacy was published in Hypertext.