Adobe Flash Player, a browser plug-in that brought rich animation and communication to the original web, has officially reached the end of its life.
The End Of Flash Player
Released in 1996, Flash was once one of the most popular ways to stream videos and play online games.
But it has been plagued by security issues and has failed to switch to the smartphone era.
Adobe will no longer offer Flash security updates and has urged people to uninstall it.
It will also suspend videos and animations running on its Flash Player from 12 January.
When Flash was first released, most internet users were connected to a dial-up connection that was slow at modern rates.
But Flash has allowed web developers and animators to deliver exciting content that can be downloaded very quickly.
“You could make a full three-minute animation with multiple characters, backgrounds, sounds and music less than 2 megabytes (MB) and viewable from within the browser,” explained animator David Firth.
His surreal role and characters – like the gangster, the blue Salad Fingers – enjoyed the success of the virus before it got to social media.
“I just did the things I wanted to see that I felt were not real: dark, surreal jokes,” he told the BBC.
“There are no shortcuts to viral content. No company fingerprints disrupt algorithms. It’s just eye-catching and quality has gone up.”
Sites like Newgrounds – described as “YouTube Flash” by Mr. Firth – come out to meet the growing demand for animation and interactive games.
“It was the first website I’ve ever seen that allows anyone to post content and be available in real time. If the public was asked if the content was low quality, it would be removed at the end of the day so you should have taken care of that when you post,” he said.
Flash was more than just animation – it also allowed websites like YouTube to stream high quality video.
In 2009, Adobe claimed that Flash was installed on 99% of PCs connected to the Internet.
But by then the world was moving to mobile devices and Adobe was slow to respond.
“We’ve been setting up low-end phones with Flash Lite,” explains David Mendels, former vice president of product at Adobe.
“It’s incredibly successful in places like Japan, but it wasn’t like a full desktop flash. It didn’t work perfectly.”
In April 2010, Apple Jobs’ s Steve Jobs wrote an open-page book entitled Thoughts On Flash, in which he outlined why Apple did not allow Flash to work on iPhones and iPads.
Flash, however, argued that it was difficult to use on touch screen, unreliable, security threats and battery drain.
He said videos and animations could be delivered via HTML5 and other open technology, making Flash no longer needed on a smartphone or tablet.
“By the time the iPhone came out, Flash wasn’t quite ready,” Mr Mendels told the BBC.
“But I also think Apple only wanted to create an Apple program.”
Finally, Adobe has acquired a version of its Flash Player that runs on Smartphones.
But the internet was on. Major brands such as Facebook, Netflix and YouTube are already streaming videos on Smartphones without Flash and in November 2011 Adobe completed the development of Flash for mobile devices.
It continued to produce Flash for desktop computers, but the software suffered from many security errors.
In 2015, Apple disabled the plug-in in its Safari web browser by default, and Google Chrome began blocking certain pieces of Flash content.
In July 2017, Adobe announced its retirement from Flash 2020.
It said other technologies, such as HTML5, were mature enough to provide an “alternative” option, without requiring users to install and update a dedicated plug-in.
What About Old-Animations?
As Adobe will block Flash Player from displaying content from January 12, there is concern that years of animation, games and interactive websites will be lost.
Gaming company Zynga closed the first version of its video game FarmVille on New Year’s Eve after 11 years, as it relied on Flash to work.
An open, collaborative project known as Ruffle works to develop software that can play Flash content in a web browser, without the need for a plug-in.
The Internet Archive currently handles over 2,000 items.
Its collection includes Salad fingerprints, although David Firth has posted official copies on YouTube, taking it as a “Flash killer”.
“As time went on and YouTube was offering us high quality and high quality formats, we just had no reason to install it in Flash format,” he explained.
But since Flash was also used for websites and interactive games, “there was every reason to keep the format”, he told the BBC.
Many features of the animators used are still available in Adobe Animate.
In its latest update, Adobe said: “We want to take a moment to thank all our customers and developers who have used and created amazing Flash Player content over the past two decades.
“We are proud that Flash has played an important role in transforming web content into all images, interactions, audio, and video.”
How To Uninstall Flash?
Adobe has provided instructions for removing Flash on Windows and Mac computers from its website.
It warned: “Uninstalling Flash Player will help protect your system since Adobe does not intend to uninstall Flash Player updates or security spots after the expiration date.”