Adobe Flash provided the building blocks for many website and video games during the early 2000s, and was even used in TV and film right up to 2020 (list of Flash Animated Films) (List of Flash Animated TV series).
As of the 31st of December 2020, however, Flash was no longer supported by Adobe, which even blocked Flash content in January 2021.
So what happened?
According to Adobe themselves, Open standard, such at HTML5, WebGL , and WebAssembly have continually matured over the years and are viable alternatives for Flash—they have effectively succeeded in making Flash technically obsolete. Many of Flash’s features have been integrated into other Adobe products over the years too, which meant designers and developers no longer needed to skip back and forth between programs.
But many point to a pioneer in the personal computer revolution as one of the reasons for Flash’s downfall…Steve Jobs.
The genius of Apple absolutely hated Flash, stating, ‘Flash is a spaghetti-ball piece of technology that has lousy performance and really bad security problems.’ He also claimed the program was ‘buggy’ and a product created by lazy developers, according to his biography by Walter Isaacson.
Mr Jobs, of course, was known as a man who wasn't easy to get along with and, at times, according to Isaacson, was as vindictive and brusque as he was innovative and inspirational.
Back in 1985, Apple invested in Adobe, and both companies worked together during this time. But, as per some long-term relationships, things gradually turned sour—especially in 1999 when Adobe refused to make a version of its popular Adobe Premiere digital-graphics software for the Mac. They also refused to rewrite Adobe Photoshop to better suit the Mac’s operating system.
When the iPhone was first released in June 2007 it famously omitted Flash Support; Steve stated that it would never exist on an iPhone. ‘Allowing Flash to be ported across platforms means things get dumbed down to the lowest common denominator,’ he said. And when someone like Steve Jobs speaks, people listen.
Since that point, the popularity of Flash sites began to dwindle. Although they didn’t completely disappear, they never reached the heyday of the early 2000s. Apple’s iPhone and iPad have never supported Flash; if you wanted your website to be viewed on these platforms, it had to be made in a completely different program.
In my opinion, a Flash site done well was a thing of beauty, and we may not see the like again. I will leave you with this video from Web Design Museum that shows the Nike Air Flash site from 2006.
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