Saving Flash from extinction
November 4, 2019
Flash is quickly approaching the end of its life. Adobe plans to halt updates and distribution by the end of 2020, and encourages any content creators to migrate their existing Flash content to new open formats like HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly.
“Several industries and businesses have been built around Flash technology – including gaming, education and video – and we remain committed to supporting Flash through 2020, as customers and partners put their migration plans into place,” Adobe wrote in a blog post when it announced its plans in 2017.
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The problem, however, is not everyone is ready to say goodbye to Flash.
“Even though the openness and accessibility of web standards is the best way to go, the ease of use and the joy of creativeness with Flash is something I still miss now and then,” Juha Lindstedt, web architect who created a petition to open-source Flash, told SD Times. “There was a movement around cool Flash sites, developers almost competing who would make the coolest art piece or website.”
Lindstedt does acknowledge that the Internet was very different back then. He explained when Flash was at its most popular, the Internet was still new and developers were using Flash to create almost pieces of artwork to showcase their talent. Today’s Internet is about being more social and connected. “I would compare Flash to music videos,” he said. “Back in the music videos’ golden era, they used to be art pieces, sometimes even separate short films. MTV was showcasing the best music videos and FWA [Favorite Website Awards] was similar for Flash projects,” he said.
Open web technologies are becoming the default choice when creating web experiences because they are fast and more power-efficient. “They’re also more secure, so you can be safer while shopping, banking, or reading sensitive documents. They also work on both mobile and desktop, so you can visit your favorite site anywhere,” Anthony Laforge, product manager of Google Chrome, wrote in a blog post when Google announced its own plans to remove Flash from Chrome. As of July 2019, Flash has been disabled in Chrome by default.
Despite the general agreement that Flash can’t keep up with today’s user demands and experiences, most would agree that throughout its life Flash has been the foundation for many web skills. “For 20 years, Flash has helped shape the way that you play games, watch videos and run applications on the web,” wrote Laforge.
Because of this, there are many efforts looking to keep Flash around in some capacity. “Flash is an important piece of the Internet’s history. We need to somehow preserve those interactive art pieces,” said Linstedt.
Preserving Flash content
One effort to preserve, or reimplement Flash was the Gnash project, an open-source Flash alternative that...