The nostalgic Flash and why it ended for good

You know what Flash is. A nostalgic web technology that was dominant in the early 2000s internet era. Many of you used it knowingly and also unknowingly, because many systems would come with Flash player bundled whether with browser or a dedicated Adobe Flash player. I remember Flash being used in many websites as banners, or even website front-page. It was like HTML5 but proprietary and in-secure.

Flash was kind of, you know, flashy. Whenever I browsed a page that contained Flash elements, I could instantly recognize it by looking how interactive and flashy it is. I remember Flash being so dominant, that every Nokia “smart” phone had a Flash player built in. There were sites where you could play Flash games and movies. Some sites had downloadable contents like SWF files, which contained flash games as executable files and movies.

Sites used to host plenty of games, and some of these browser games were enormous and famous. I don’t know about you, but I played lots of these games. There are few reasons people loved to play Flash games. Although HTML5 is cooler now, Flash was something else for browser games. Because there were plenty of them, and for free.

Why Flash was cool

Making these games was fairly easy. You didn’t need an army of developers to build such games, because they were simple and also simple to develop. Adobe provided the tools and software to develop such games and movies. Developers used Action script to code flash games and Adobe sold softwares like Adobe Flash Pro to make money off the developers in return for easy animation and GUI based Flash building tools.

Playing these games was easy, because all you needed was a browser with Flash support (which almost every browser had). Most of the games were free and accessible without extra effort. You didn’t have to download anything or install anything, you just browsed the page and clicked a button and you could instantly load the game in your browser. You saved the progress either in a text file or your browser (which would get lost if you cleared your browser data).

I remember playing various Flash games for hours. And there were so many of them ‌I could just play hour and hour long. No need to download or install. There were many famous Flash games. Games like Kingdom Rush Frontier, Alien Hominid and Bubble Spinner 2 were big hits. Some fan-made games were pretty famous too, like Super Mario 63 (were they ever sued by Nintendo?).

The inevitable doom of Flash

Flash is dead. Dead for a long time. This happens when you claw, grab something, corporations control and hope it to survive and be a standard for the future. Adobe, the company behind it, never opens sourced Flash specifications. So the adoption for dominant systems in the market broke Flash’s neck.

The mobile market never adopted Flash. “Too proprietary, too resource-intensive, too unaccommodating for a platform run by fingertips instead of mouse clicks.” This is the definition of Flash told by Steve Jobs. Apple never welcomed Flash. Although Desktop was pretty dominant and smartphones weren’t for all, soon the mobile market became mainstream and web technology became mobile friendly. Except Flash.

Flash was like a very dangerous toy that could explode anytime with lots of zero day vulnerabilities. Adobe, with limited development time patched slowly and never achieved the pace of any open source software. So the risk became major with Flash, and it became a favorite tool to destroy systems for the citizens of the dark part of the internet. Wired Quoted:

“Flash has been a favorite amongst exploit kit authors for several years,” says Jérôme Segura, lead malware analyst at Malwarebytes. “Because of an alarming number of zero-day exploits distributed via large malvertising campaigns in recent years, many in the security community have urged users to completely remove Flash from their machines.”

Apple abandoned Flash a long time ago, also Android in favour of a greater option.

The rise of HTML5 and JS

HTML5 is the most matured, standard and open web technology that is still growing. You can do all those stuff you could do with Flash, without a plugin, proprietary tools and tech, and without limitation. It’s available on every internet enabled device, not just desktop. And it’s an open standard. So why should people adopt closed insecure junk? Here is a quote from OSSGUY:

“Can’t Adobe just add support to the phones? Not easily. Most cell phone makers will only add software to their phones if it passes a ‌quality threshold, and Flash rarely meets that threshold by performing too slowly or by missing features. Since Flash is closed to outside developers, cell phone makers can’t fix Flash to make it work better so they can’t include it with their phones.”

Developers adopted HTML5 because of the reason and opted for an open solution rather than having to rely on Adobe’s mercy. Animation effects and interactivity are much easier with CSS and Javascript. You don’t have to embed something, and the codes are simple with the rest of the webpage. It’s the language that web pages use already, so it’s already widely available. Videos on the web are now mostly in HTML5, and YouTube has adopted it a long time ago. Because open standards are the future. It’s better, efficient and mature.

There was a time where socket was not available in JS, but it got past that with tons of improvement, faster than Flash. While the Flash development ran slowly inside a closed hut of Adobe, with the pace of a snail in a marathon.

Flash is dead

With HTML5 and JS becoming mainstream and open for all. And Flash became a terrible option for web developers, Flash dug its grave and announced it would die soon. Wire quoted:

“No one should shed a tear for Flash’s coming disappearance. The web will be safer, faster, smoother without it. But between now and 2020, the internet needs to figure out how to deal with the remains.”

Some people say that Adobe should open source Flash. But I think that won’t happen soon with a company that is not so friendly with the open source world. 2020 is the last year for Adobe Flash, and then Adobe will drop it. HTML5 already took its place and is growing with greater pace. Adobe wasn’t and won’t be able to rise again, ever. Because we don’t need it.

Developers for Flash contents have long moved to HTML5, and every internet enabled device now supports it. And it’s secure. You don’t have to worry about someone executing remote code, accessing your files, and downloading malware with HTML5. The web is now HTML5 and JS, and it will be for a long time. If you still love browser games and you want to play them, there are similar options with lots of games. Although nostalgia is a distinct thing and nothing can bring back the joy of web games in Flash, there are alternatives.

There are many ways to convert Flash games to HTML5, and they discontinue some of them. Yeah, Flash is that much useless now. Developers are using HTML5 as their primary choice. Even some desktop apps are being made with web technologies based on HTML and JS. There are Electron, ReactJS and more that enable developers to create applications easily with web technology.

If you still want Flash

For nostalgia, or whatever the case, if you want Flash in your browser, you can use it for a while. Although Firefox has discontinued Flash support in recent versions, you can use browsers that still support Flash, like Seamonkey. Opera also allows you to enable Flash with the flag “opera://settings/content/flash?search=flash”.

If you are on iPhone and Android, you can use Puffin Browser to access Flash contents. Although I do not trust such a browser with privacy, if you want a nostalgia shot, it’s the only option right now for iOS and Android users. Puffin also has a Flash theatre where you can watch flash movies in theatre mode. You can play Flash games with the included controller for Flash games in Puffin. Which is cool and unique!

Conclusion

I liked Flash a lot when I was a kid. There were tons of games I could play with my computer without downloading, and the sites that were built with Flash were interactive. But since it’s a closed standard and Adobe does not have enough ability to keep developing it and making it secure, the more great and open HTML5 took its place and made Flash obsolete. Flash is vulnerable and obsolete, but nostalgic‌. We waved goodbye to Flash forever, and for good.

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