In 1996, Adobe introduced the ‘Flash Player plugin’, which ultimately shaped the very nature of the Internet as we know it today. Flash is a software that requires a plugin in order to be installed, which then allows animations, games and more to be displayed on the device. Introduced when the internet was in its infancy, the idea of website interactivity revolutionised the way people saw the Internet.
Shockingly, Adobe has revealed that, in collaboration with tech partners such as Microsoft, the Flash Player plugin is going to be completely phased out by 2020. Ceasing all updates and plugin distribution, Flash’s end, according to Adobe, is down to the fact that it is no longer necessary.
During its ‘golden era’ Flash was praised as an interesting and exciting way to experience advanced graphics, typography, animations and interactivity on the World Wide Web.
In the early 2000s Flash started to face extreme public backlash and controversy, with critics mainly bashing the software’s usability, privacy and security. One of the biggest public critics of Flash was by Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. Although Apple owned approximately 20% of Adobe over many years, Jobs blasted the software in a 2010 open letter citing Flash as having “one of the worst security records in 2009” and that Apple did not want to “reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash”.
Flash has been heavily criticised for causing poor battery life in many devices. To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware, however Flash decodes data in software, which uses too much power. The modern user requires a mobile phone battery which is long-lasting, yet still able to keep up with their web demands. Flash simply drains mobile batteries leaving users frustrated and left without a phone prematurely.
Many users claim Flash has left their profiles vulnerable to security and privacy issues. In 2015, research found Adobe Flash to be the most frequently exploited product, with the plugin exposed to six of the top 10 security vulnerabilities. In a desperate attempt to manage the vast security issues associated with Flash, Adobe released an updated version in 2017, warning all users to update ‘immediately’.
Flash has experienced a gradual demise, now seen as a replaceable, rather than ‘must-have’ technology. In 2010 Adobe experienced a 20% drop in shares, then announcing the following year that they would no longer develop the Flash plugin on mobile devices. Although Adobe has now announced Flash will no longer exist, they will continue to support websites using the plugin until 2010.
The Flash Player Plugin operated within a ‘proprietary’ or ‘closed’ format, maintained by Adobe itself. In comparison, an ‘open’ format occurs when content is stored, manipulated and maintained by a standards organization.
Adobe has announced the recommendation to migrate all existing Flash content to new open formats. Unlike closed formats, open formats are not restricted by any copyrights, patents or trademarks. The Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) is the global non-profit organisation which oversees security standards, content technologies and emergency management, to name a few, within open formats. The majority of new software, such as HTML 5 discussed below, operates within open formats and are therefore strictly monitored by OASIS.
Used on 110 million websites and by 2.9 million customers worldwide,the ‘death’ of Flash is no reason for concern. New more secure, user friendly and safe open standards will bring an easier way to interact on the Internet, and we’re excited!