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The Roc Search Blog

The end of an era…. The end of Flash

08 August 2017

Remember the dancing baby video, also called Baby Cha Cha? A 3D rendered animation of a dancing baby wearing diapers. It spread via email and quickly became one of the first viral videos of the Internet, well before YouTube even existed.

The animation was created with Flash. Software that allowed you to make animated clips that were funny and entertaining. They made the early Internet come to life. It became the creative designers’ development tool of choice for animations and video that could be played in a browser on the web - as a game or an animation. Even animated web sites could be built with Flash. Then a letter from Steve Jobs changed everything.

In his famous letter of 2010 he wrote about the shortcomings of Flash and why Apple would not support it on the iPhone: Flash has security flaws, it is resource intensive, it’s a proprietary technology and it drains battery power. Jobs opted for open-source technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS for Apple products.

Despite Jobs’ rejection, Flash, in the meantime bought by Adobe, continued its development as a plugin to play video and animations in browsers. This is until HTML5 improved so much that Adobe was forced to admit that their competitor was indeed better for creating and deploying content on browsers across mobile devices.

Key vendors like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook stopped supporting Flash by integrating video and animation capabilities directly into their (mobile) browsers. Thereby eliminating the need for the Flash plugin.

And finally, after over twenty years serving videos and animations to people over the web, Adobe’s Flash media player, and as a result ActionScript - the language used to create Flash graphics - is being put to the rest. Adobe made this announcement on their blog on July 25th.

So what to do with your existing Flash content like games or animations?

Adobe says it remains committed to supporting the technology until 2020 alongside partners like Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla. In other words, your content will still be playable. But start using HTML5 for your new rich media content.

HTML5 can be used as an alternative to Adobe Flash. It includes features for playing audio and video within web pages, it can also be used to play some basic browser games and integrated vector graphics.

Microsoft says it plans to disable Flash by default in Internet Explorer in mid to late 2019. Google will continue phasing out Flash over the next few years. Apple is also supportive of the 2020 end of life for Flash, and Safari currently requires explicit approval on each website even when Mac users opt to install Flash.

2020 will mark the end of an era for Flash, but one that feels like it has been a long time coming. HTML5 standards have been implemented across all modern web browsers, and the need for Flash just isn’t there anymore. An end to Flash will bring with it obvious improvements in security and battery life on laptops and other mobile devices that currently support the web technology.

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