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Blog: The Coder Corner

The demise of General Flash

By now, General Flash would have been demoted to Private 5th class Flash, and soon he will be dishonourably dismissed from the ranks altogether.

Flash has gone through different hands and stages. Starting in 1995 it was called SmartSketch and was destined to be used on the then budding technology of “Pen Computing”. When Pen Computing didn’t take off, SmartSketch was reworked and rebranded as FutureSplash Animator. FutureWave was acquired by Macromedia in 1996. Macromedia renamed FutureSplash to Flash. Flash belonged to Macromedia, until Macromedia itself was acquired by Adobe in 2005. Adobe continued to improve Flash by adding many features. One of the most noteworthy would be the addition of ActionScript, allowing programmers to write complete programs inside Flash.

It was one of the most beloved platforms to create animations for the web as well as for standalone applications. In 1999, I was pressed by my fellow programmers to learn and use Flash for my websites and Multimedia applications for my clients. I was a bit hesitant then, and have remained to be so. In my (then) opinion, mixing graphics and programming could lead to catastrophic results, even more so if the programming language was insufficiently defined. My friends slowly abandoned their use of Flash over the years.

In 2010, Steve Jobs announced that Flash was no longer allowed on Apple products, citing abysmal security as one reason. By then, Flash had received way too many security patches to be reasonably considered secure. Not a month went by without a critical Flash security update. As I have stated in other articles here, security has become a nightmare to handle for programming languages. Memory mismanagement due to corrupt(ed) graphics was all too common. My initial doubts about Flash seemed to have become a reality after all.

Since 2010, the popularity of Flash has declined.

The security-patch frequency however has not. Up to a point where even Microsoft was issuing security patches for Adobe Flash. It’s nice to see that rival companies help each other out in times of crisis, right? Well, this time Flash applications were putting Microsoft servers at risk of being hacked. That was a bit too much to accept for Microsoft and they fixed it. Microsoft also started their own flavour of Flash called Silverlight. But that is another sad story.

Flash continued to be popular in the Eastern countries like Russia and Ukraine. Not a website in sight without some kind of Flash animation or game.

Then it came to mind that all those animations, ads and games in Flash might have some security as well as privacy issues. And with that discovery came another series of critical Flash updates.

In 2015, HTML5 came on the market with built-in audio and video capabilities. Flash video was then slowly abandoned by sites like Youtube that beforehand converted everything to Flash video. Now they use different formats that are exclusively used for video (no embedded programming possible) and prefer to use HTML5. Today’s browsers have HTML5 integrated so it all works smoothly. Without the need for Flash or Flashplayer.

In 2017, Adobe declared the end of life for Flash for 2020, giving everybody enough time to convert mission critical Flash apps to other platforms.

Rest In Peace, Adobe Flash, you have had a long and troubled life, now it’s time to move on.

Henk von Pickartz

Written by : Henk von Pickartz

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