It's been a while since the beloved Adobe Flash Player became obsolete. Let's set one thing straight - it wasn't a mere plugin! The Adobe Flash Player is something worthy of honor and recognition! It transformed the world and soon became an essential on the internet. With the official end of life, we shall explore the life and death of Adobe Flash Player and what it has meant to, if not all, most of us! So let's 'Flash' back to the past and get on with our trip down memory lane.

The History

Futurewave Software Inc. was co-founded by Charlie Jackson and Jonathan Gay in 1993. They created SmartSketch, a vector-based drawing application. Parallelly, the internet was starting to make its presence felt, and at this time, Macromedia was building Shockwave, its own multimedia platform for the web.

FutureWave launched FutureSplash animator in 1996, which blended frame-by-frame animation tools with other features from SmartSketch. Around this time, the company wasn't doing too well, and FutureWave tried to sell FutureSplash. Macromedia acquired FutureWave in 1997 and renamed FutureSplash as Macromedia Flash.

Flash Player lets users run the Flash Interactive Experiences on their browsers. Flash animations and games were a rave on the internet. Flash also got involved in web development, with navigation buttons and more being made in Flash. So much so that some websites were created totally in Flash, so you would see nothing if you did not have the plugin. Flash powered games, animations, websites, and other interactive applications on the web and evolved into an ecosystem. Flash was all over the internet!

Doom has been a big part of growing up for a lot of us

"We didn't realize we were making memories; we just knew we were having fun." - Winnie-the-Pooh.

Enter Adobe

The Flash platform kept getting bigger and bigger, and it caught the eye of Adobe! Adobe acquired Macromedia for $3.6 billion in 2005. According to Adobe CEO at the time, Bruce Chizen, $3 billion of that total amount was just for Flash. Adobe renamed Flash to Flash Professional, the authoring tool, and Flash Player, the player that plays back the experiences.

The evolution of the Flash logo

Steve Jobs' Thoughts on Flash

Adobe kept developing and pushing out updates. But Flash wasn't perfect and received its share of criticism. Pandora's Box opened when Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple at the time, published an open letter called "Thoughts on Flash." Adobe and Apple go back a long way, and there might be some reasons why Jobs wrote this letter. Steve was very firm about not allowing Flash on the iPhone. He published it on April 29, 2010.

His main arguments in the letter were :

  • lack of openness (it was still a proprietary product of Adobe Systems Incorporated)
  • Issues in - reliability, security, performance, battery life
  • lack of touch support

One of the main concerns was that Steve Jobs considered Flash as an additional layer in iOS, which could come in the way of the release of features and APIs for developers and users. He believed new open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, would rule mobile devices and PCs, and Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future.

Adobe focused on creating cross-platform experiences because Flash ran on Windows, Mac, and other platforms. The issue - being limited by the lowest common denominator - is not what Apple wanted. Apple, in the words of Steve Jobs, was leaving the past behind.

Also, Flash was built years ago before touch blew up and the lack of touch support was a significant setback. It was made for mouse and keyboard input in the PC era. The interactive experiences would not be tailored for touch even if users used Flash on touch-responsive devices like the iPhone.

Imagine what it would be like if Flash could keep up with touch-responsive devices

Keeping Pace with Evolution

Flash put up a good fight, and it undoubtedly changed the world of the internet, but it wasn't ready for the mobile era. Nowadays, so many people are on mobile devices, and open standards and excellent battery life are essential for a mobile device. And Flash wasn't ready for that.

Adobe Flash Player was still widely used in the years that followed, but websites started shifting away from it. For example, in 2010, YouTube was already experimenting with an HTML5 player and phased out Flash Players over the years. In 2016, Adobe Flash Professional was released under a new name, Adobe Animate, as Adobe started shifting to HTML5 tools.

Critical security updates due to security vulnerabilities were published later that year, and it seemed like these were becoming repetitive. Unfortunately, Flash Player was becoming a target for attackers, and the Flash Player has been commonly abused for popups and malware installers.

On July 25, 2017, Adobe officially announced that it would stop updating and distributing Flash Player at the end of 2020. Over the next 3 years, developers were urged to transition their content to other standards. Many web browsers too started warning users about the discontinuation of Flash. December 31, 2020, Adobe entirely stopped any updates or security fixes for Flash Player and strongly encouraged users to uninstall it. On January 12, 2021, Adobe blocked all Flash content from running even if you have the plugin installed.

Internet was never the same after the arrival of Flash

Goodbye, you legend

Remember playing those Miniclip games back in the day? We all have had a lot of good memories of enjoying Flash content, and the average user never really cared about the technicalities. For them, Flash meant fun! Flash has positively affected all of us. Flash might be gone, but it has shown us how important motion is in creating an exceptional user experience. Making motion in design effortless and accessible to all is a must in today's age.

So thank you, Adobe, Macromedia, and FutureWave, for making this fantastic software and developing it over the years. Thank you to all the incredible people who made the fun games and animations that we enjoyed over the years.