What Was Flash & What Happened to It?

Flash is officially dead

Adobe Flash, sometimes called Shockwave Flash or Macromedia Flash, was a platform that many websites used to use to play video. It was common to find Flash content on video streaming platforms and websites offering online games.

Adobe officially stopped supporting Flash in 2021 and has blocked Flash content from running in Flash Player.

Screenshot of the Adobe Flash logo

© Adobe

Flash Was Everywhere

So what was Adobe Flash anyway?

If you're not very computer savvy, it's possible that you've gone years without ever really knowing what it was. Maybe you saw a few update reminders here and there but otherwise, everything you needed online worked without any hiccups.

The reality is that Flash was probably powering much of what you were doing. It was used to create everything from web apps and games to videos and animations. YouTube used Flash when it launched in 2005, and countless interactive tools and games required it. Web browsers included built-in support for Flash so that you could do everything you needed to without worrying about whether it was installed and updated.

Why Did Flash Shut Down?

Flash has been around since the '90s. And while that doesn't speak to its security or functionality, there were multiple things over the years that ultimately brought about its demise.

The biggest reason was security. With a huge part of the tech world running Flash, it became a massive target for hackers, forcing Adobe to release updates often to patch problems. It also offered poor performance, causing some users to see full CPU usage when viewing web pages with Flash content.

It was in 2007 that one of the first big nails in the coffin were witnessed. This was when Apple released the first iPhone, which from the very beginning has never supported Flash. In an effort to make content compatible with iPhones, YouTube and other sites had to take action by abandoning Flash. This, along with security flaws, created a snowball effect where it slowly disappeared.

According to Adobe:

Open standards such as HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly have continually matured over the years and serve as viable alternatives for Flash content. Also, major browser vendors are integrating these open standards into their browsers and deprecating most other plug-ins (like Flash Player).

And that's absolutely right. HTML5 has replaced Flash and made it irrelevant as a multimedia playback standard.

Here are just a few ways HTML5 is better than Flash:

  • Doesn't require external plugins, so it works natively in all browsers.
  • Open-source and freely available.
  • Easier for search engines to read and understand its contents.
  • Less processing power is needed, so it offers better performance and is faster/lightweight.
  • Easier to develop because it uses the common languages HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Do I Need to Do Anything?

Nope! Unless you're a developer who needs to transition your content away from Flash (which you've probably already done), you don't need to do anything in terms of making things work. Your web browser (as long as it's up to date) has already removed all Flash-related software and references, so you don't need to manually disable it there.

In fact, some companies never used Flash to begin with or have been moving away from it for years. In addition to Apple never supporting it, there's a clear history of other companies moving on to bigger and better technologies:

  • 2015: Chrome began auto-pausing Flash content to save battery power on laptops and completely removed it from the browser a few years later.
  • 2011: Adobe began transitioning away from Flash for Mobile to focus on HTML5.
  • 2017: Facebook moved hundreds of games over to HTML5.
  • 2018: Microsoft began asking Edge users permission to run Flash content, and by 2020 prevented all Flash from running in Edge and Internet Explorer.
  • 2019: Firefox disabled Flash by default for most of its users and stopped the plugin from loading in 2021 when Adobe ended support.

Something you should do is uninstall Flash Player. Although Adobe has ended development and support, and removed all Flash Player downloads from its website, you might still have it on your computer. To prevent it from posing a problem to your system's security by leaving it there, you can use a program uninstaller to see if you have it and to delete it.

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