Flash marks the end of an internet era

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck Flash brought us many happy memories in the computer lab.

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck Flash brought us many happy memories in the computer lab.

Fabian Segura, Columnist

After 25 years of its existence, Flash Player is gone from the web. Having started out under the company FutureSplash in 1992, who went on to be bought by Macromedia in 1997 and subsequently Adobe in 2005, Flash has been around for nearly the entire lifespan of the internet. 

It gave artists animators and programmers the ability to share games in a compact size. Businesses used it as an interface for their webpages. YouTube got its start using Flash Player to stream video to people. Most people born in the late 90s growing up in school can probably remember going to sites like Cool Math Games. Yet today, Flash has gone out mostly quiet. 

The downfall of Flash can be traced back to 2010 with a letter from the late Steve Jobs denouncing the technology as unreliable and unsuited for mobile phone use. The iPhone had come out a few years prior with its App Store that did not rely on the web and the smartphone market was just about to take off. 

While Flash could be ported over to mobile, by 2011, Adobe gave up on the venture. The web was changing to using more standard features such as HTML5 while Flash, with its myriad of increasing security holes, was becoming less relied upon. 

The end of 2020 marked a year of turbulence, and with it, the end of Flash’s support. Adobe had made the message clear that they would no longer publicly support Flash months prior, and when Dec. 31 passed, the mass uninstallation of Flash began. Pop ups were sent from Adobe, Microsoft disabled installing Flash through a Windows update and Google Chrome was updated to remove it’s built-in Flash. If someone evaded all those attempts to remove Flash, Adobe had another method with its remote deactivation of Flash, preventing even opening it after Jan. 12.  

It’s that remote deactivation that brings up an interesting case of legacy support. On that day, a Chinese railroad in the Liaoning province had its operations shut down due to their dependence on Flash for its internal systems. After 20 hours of troubleshooting a system installed 10 years prior and fixing it with an older version of Flash without the remote deactivation system, operations resumed the next day. For businesses that still need to rely on Flash, Adobe has transitioned support over to Samsung’s subcompany Harman for support until 2023

Flash will still live on through legacy business support, Adobe Animate, and Adobe Air. For those still wanting to play old favorite flash games, an open-source initiative called Ruffle aims to emulate the venerable plugin through the very same web standards that replaced it. Some have even taken to try archiving everything made in Flash

I for one will truly miss the glory days of Flash. The amount of creativity that came out of those games and animations was certainly something special. Depending on the content, Flash looked better today than it did all those years ago with vector graphics scaling up to today’s resolutions. 

There are certainly more options today for creators to use today, such as Unity or GameMaker, but Flash was certainly one of a kind. Thank you, Flash, and the wonderful memories and sites you helped create. It’s been a blast.