Adobe Flash

What was Flash?

Flash was a proprietary Adobe program that used the action script language. For those of you who are not ultra tech savvy, essentially Flash worked in much the same way that HTML5 works today. It was a coding platform and language (action script) that was used to create websites and banners in all corners of the internet throughout the 90s and 00s.

 

For all of those years, Flash was the only conceivable way to achieve eye-catching effects that would set your website or banner ad apart from the rest. It downloaded a Flash player plugin directly onto your desktop and, thanks to a very effective built-in compression tool, was able to serve intricate and massive animations at a very low file size. We’re talking a mind-blowing 40KB for video-like animations! Flash also worked consistently across all browsers, as it operated via its own plugin, rather than relying on the support from browsers alone.

 

While Flash did have some qualities that made it an excellent tool for developers and animators, in the end, it was the limitations of Flash combined with Apple’s boycott of the platform which spelt its demise.

What were the problems with Flash?

Flash had always struggled to maintain a handle on its security. Over the years, the platform had a long-threaded history of security flaws, bugs, and malware that negatively affected many users’ experience and devices. Flash was also fairly inefficient; its capabilities consumed a lot of power, slowed down browsers, and caused computers to do a lot of unnecessary work that took away from other, more intentional functions and performances. Flash was also the darling of the era before most people had cell phones, and definitely before any of those phones were smart. So, for a myriad of reasons, Flash wasn’t positioned to transition into the mobile era—a huge drawback especially when Apple came on the scene with their ultra-coveted, touch-based smartphones.

It was 2010 when Steve Jobs composed his Thoughts on Flash and outlined the exact reasons why Flash was not a viable product to include in the programming for his monolithic Apple products. Citing issues such as proprietary software, a lack of reliability, security, performance, the drawbacks and downfalls of Flash seemed numerous. Between 2010 and 2015, the world saw the rise of the smartphone and the slow death of Flash. Most websites were vying for screen time on mobile devices and since Apple phones did not support Flash, they all swiftly made the change to HTML5.

The Phasing out of Flash

Digital advertising, on the other hand, did not immediately undergo a similar transformation. At the time, banners were not yet as prevalent as they are now, and they certainly were not formatted for mobile phones. Basically, it was a fluke that five years after Steve Jobs’ essay nearly the entire web was built in HTML5, while banner ads were still almost exclusively built using Flash. Of course now, banners have beautifully and completely made the switch to HTML5 as well.

Finally, in 2015, Google released a version of Chrome that automatically paused Flash content that wasn’t integral to the website. This, coupled with the introduction of digital advertising on mobile phones, signalled the real end of Flash. In 2016 Chrome began blocking any Flash content in the background and running HTML5 by default instead. And now in 2019 Flash is completely blocked by default on Chrome 76, only accessible by a deep delve into the browser’s settings by a very motivated user.

Why HTML5 is now the industry standard

Of course, as we all know now, HTML5 has become the new prevailing language and coding platform. It is not only safe for users but can also host intricate animations at with only a slight jump in minimum file size—150-200KB. HTML5, unlike Flash, is an open web technology which allows it to be faster and more power-efficient than Flash ever could have hoped to be. Boasting more security and safety features so users can safely bank online, or utilize other sensitive information, HTML5 also works on mobile and desktop so you can enjoy the same experience from your favourite sites no matter the device you’re on.

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See some of our work

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