We’ve been hearing reports of Adobe Flash’s death for years. But it’s not over till Adobe says it is, and now Adobe has declared a termination date for Flash support.
Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.
Adobe cites the development of open standards as the reason to retire Flash. Given the constant stream of bugs and security holes, it’s reasonable to think the unmaintainability of the code was an even stronger reason. Old software gets that way.
Macromedia Flash started out in 1997 as a way to add animation to Web pages. A few years later it added video support and became the standard way to present video on the Web. However much it’s reviled today, it provided a lot of value. At the same time, it enabled some really horrible pages, including all-Flash pages. For a while it was considered cool to make people go through an ugly, slow-loading Flash page before letting them see any useful content. There’s a site called “24 Hours of Happy” that consists of a single Flash music video. Yes, it’s 24 hours long, or at least claims to be. Maybe Jack Bauer could use it to torture suspects.
Flash’s afterlife will be a messy one, though. Not all sites will stop using it in 2021. The ones that don’t will be the ones that never get updated. The people viewing them will be the ones who never update their browsers. This will be a bonanza for the degenerate lifeforms that prey on users. Flash will be dead, but zombies will lurk around its grave.
This is a major problem if you are into the digital preservation of web pages. The demise of flash is likely to be a great case study in a decade – will it be “no-one cared,” “there is a black hole of websites 2000-2010 because we can’t render flash,” or “this is what it cost to emulate flash”?
Certainly there’s a danger of loss, but there are possibilities for preservation. Currently there’s a petition to get Adobe to open-source Flash. Another possibility is to sandbox current browsers with the Flash plugin in an emulation environment.