The End of Flash

The End of FlashMicrosoft announced this week it will discontinue security support for Flash on Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer 11, at the end of 2020. Adobe and Microsoft started planning the end of Flash in July of 2017 because of the lack of use from web developers, as well as security vulnerabilities. HTML5 provides a more secure web developing environment, while also keeping up with modern technologies and browsing experiences.

Let’s use this milestone as a time to look back at the evolution of Flash, and how it fell out of favor. At its core, Flash enables animation on web pages. It began as a piece of software called FutureWave in 1993 for a computer that used a pen on the screen. The computer system failed, and FutureWave was ported over to Mac and PC operating systems. The creators of the software approached Adobe in 1995, but Adobe passed on the software, only to buy it later from Macromedia.

Macromedia bought the software in 1996 and named it Flash. They incorporated it into their design suite that was competing with Adobe at the time. Macromedia owned the leading web site builder at the time named Dreamweaver. The web-based animation software fit well into the lineup. Macromedia enjoyed almost ten years of success with Flash and owned it during its peak. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there were endless Flash based online games, and it seemed like every website had a Flash based intro.

Adobe bought Macromedia at the end of 2005, absorbing Flash, and their other web tools. YouTube launched earlier that year and began using Flash tools to play video seamlessly online. However, just a year and a half after the acquisition of Flash, Adobe could not develop a version of the software that would satisfy Apple. The first iPhone was introduced in June 2007 without Flash support. The iOS platform would never include Flash support and began the downward trajectory for the multimedia software. YouTube quickly abandoned Flash in order for the first iPhone to ship with a working YouTube player. Web developers stopped using the software practically overnight, because any website built on Flash could not be accessed by the growing iPhone community.

Web developers abandoned the platform, and Adobe finally gave up on the software as well. Flash has not had a major version update since 2011. The latest statistics show that 2.5% of websites are still using Flash, however Microsoft and Adobe have made it clear they are not supporting the platform in 2021.

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Posted by Charles Wright