Anyone who has grown up with the internet remembers the early days of badly-designed websites and gimmicky browser-based video games. However, what most of us didn’t know back then that most of these online constructs were powered by none other Adobe Flash software.
As we step into 2021, we leave not only 2020 behind us, but also Adobe Flash too, as the plugin has finally been put to rest after more than 20 years of featuring in our digital lives. Flash’s demise has been a long-time coming, especially as web developers had mostly migrated away from this outdated technology. In 2017, Adobe confirmed it would be discontinuing the plugin on December 31st, 2020.
“Flash powered a large portion of the web at the height of its popularity, which put a lot of responsibility on Adobe,” HowToGeek (HTG) explains. “Since flash was a web plugin, it was maintained and updated by a single entity. As Flash grew in popularity, it increasingly became a target for hackers.”
Indeed, aside from obsolescence, the demise of Flash came about as a result of the security threat it posed.
“It didn’t take long for Flash to join other browser plugins like ActiveX and Java in being labeled a security risk,” HTG continued. “Try as it could, Adobe couldn’t fix Flash, so in 2017, the company decided to cease development and kill Flash entirely by the end of 2020.”
One of the earliest signs of Flash becoming unnecessary for the future of the internet was when Apple decided to release its then-revolutionary iPhone, the original model, in 2007 without support for Flash. This was met with some backlash at first, but as browsers advanced over the next few years, it was clear the late Steve Jobs was onto something. Around 2010, Flash was already on its last legs.
“Flash was able to grow because it filled a gap,” HTG said. “Rich web content that involved animations, video, sound, and interactivity wasn’t possible [at the time] using browsers that barely complied with early web standards. It took the rise of browsers like Mozilla Firefox to place greater emphasis on new web technologies that would eventually be able to replace Flash.”
So, as we step into 2021 and hopefully towards a better year, we find ourselves leaving behind a piece of software that significantly influenced our lives online.
“Most web browsers have already stopped supporting Flash, and today is the official end date, with Adobe ending support itself — although there’s still one last “death of Flash” milestone on January 12, when the company will begin to block Flash content from playing,” Tech Crunch writes.