There was a time when Adobe Flash powered almost anything on the internet that moved. It was a dark time, but we didn’t even know how dark, until more efficient alternatives were developed and smartphones became common. Flash never adapted to this new world, and now Adobe is giving up. The company has announced it will discontinue Flash development by 2020.
The first sign of Flash’s eventual decline came in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone. This was the first mobile phone with a browser you could use without wanting to claw your eyes out. Naturally, people wondered about the lack of Flash support, which was still common around the web back then. Apple refused to add it, and in 2010 Steve Jobs went so far as to publish an open letter calling Flash a “relic of the PC era.”
Over on the Android side, Google and Adobe made a go of getting Flash working on smartphones and tablets. A mobile build of Flash was launched in 2010 with Android 2.2 Froyo, and it worked (mostly). Flash performance was sluggish, particularly in games, and promised improvements never materialized. Adobe dropped support for Flash on mobile devices in 2012. By that time, most web developers had moved to HTML5 platforms and native apps that worked on modern devices.
The move away from Flash has not stopped with phones, though. Even on the desktop Flash is declining. All of the major video streaming sites like Netflix and YouTube have ditched Flash in favor of HTML5 video. HTML5 is a much more efficient way to run videos and animations on a page compared with Flash, and that’s especially important when you have to worry about battery life.
There are still some remnants of Flash on the web, including games on Facebook and other sites. Facebook says it’s working with other industry players to develop a Unity plugin that will help developers migrate away from Flash. They’ll want to get on that, because not everyone is waiting for Adobe to officially pull the plug on Flash. Apple stopped pre-installing Flash on its computers years ago, and will continue pretending it does not exist. Mozilla says it will make Flash opt-in for each site with a Firefox update next month, and it will disable Flash completely in 2019. Google keeps an updated version of Flash inside Chrome, but it says that will end in 2020.
Given the long timeline for phasing out Flash, you should suffer no ill-effects when it disappears forever.
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