It happened: the Adobe Flash Player came to an end. After almost 25 years of existence, the plugin reaches its deadline on Thursday (31). The tool will be shut down for good, leaving an entire legacy and passing the baton to the standards that have already conquered the web, such as HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly.
Although almost non-existent on the internet today, the importance of the platform is indisputable whether in the past or in the present day. After all, she is responsible for animating the web when everything was still undergrowth, through YouTube videos until the site adheres to HTML5 by default and even what enabled browser games.
Where did the Adobe Flash Player come from?
The history of Flash goes back to the 1990s. The software has its origins in a company co-founded by Jonathan Gay in 1993, FutureWave. The company marked its debut in the world with SmartSketch, an illustration-oriented software.
After changes in the market, in 1996, the company focused its efforts on web animations with the launch of FutureSplash Animator, which attracted the attention of companies like Disney and Microsoft. Until, at the end of the same year, FutureWave was acquired by Macromedia and the program was renamed “Macromedia Flash”.
The program passed to other hands again in 2005, when Adobe bought Macromedia. After the transaction, the platform finally got the name we know today: Adobe Flash Player.
The success of the software was remarkable. To give you an idea, even in 2014, the year when HTML5 was introduced, eight out of ten Google Chrome users accessed a Flash site on their computer daily. “Today, only 17% of users visit sites with Flash and we continue to see a downward trend as sites move to HTML,” said Google in 2017.
The plugin provided developers with simpler functions, such as the creation of banners, menus and other elements of web pages, to the reproduction of multimedia content, such as music and videos. But games that ran through the browser are among the platform’s most striking attractions.
The beginning of the end
Flash did not enter the 2010s very well. Android was one of the last territories where software stepped in before its demise. After the announcement for mobile platforms in 2009, such as Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile and WebOS, the software arrived on Google’s system in June 2010.
The iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, however, never received support for the plugin. At the time, Steve Jobs, former CEO and co-founder of Apple, argued that the technology would not perform well on cell phones, which would directly affect battery life. Access to the feature on branded mobile products was only possible with jailbreak.
In October 2010, during the event “Back To The Mac”, Steve Jobs also announced that Apple computers would no longer come with the plugin installed at the factory. However, if they wanted to, users could download it freely.
The decision came just a few months after the publication of the open letter “Thoughts about Flash”, in April 2010. The document went offline around June 14 and 18, 2020, as noted in the Internet Archive page collection, but you you can still check it in full and in English (web.archive.org).
With these episodes and the arrival of current standards, the beginning of the end of Flash was marked. In addition, several security flaws in Windows and macOS were critical of the platform at that time, including some that allowed remote access to computers.
The plugin for mobile platforms didn’t last long either. After announcing that it would stop developing it for phones and tablets, Adobe released the latest version of the software in November 2011. The following year, Flash for Android left for good.
But the news that the platform had an expiration date only arrived, even, in 2017, times after the launch of a tool that converted Flash to HTML5 by the company itself. In July, Adobe revealed that in three years (that is, today), the plugin would come to an end to make the move to open standards, such as HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly.
“We will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player in late 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new formats,” said the company at the time.
Adobe also removed some pages on the platform from the air, such as a publication by Gay that tells the story of Flash. Through the Internet Archive, it is possible to access a version saved on August 21, 2014 with the content still available. On June 15, 2015, the site returned the error “sorry, this page is not available” (in free translation).
Since then, the soap opera’s outcome was just a matter of time. Not for nothing, in 2018, Flash was present in only 5% of internet sites. Soon after, Shockwave also ended in 2019. In September 2020, Internet Explorer began to warn of its closure. Until you receive your last update, in December.
“We hope that Flash has played a critical role in creating animation, interactivity, audio and video content from the web and we hope to help shape the next era of digital experiences,” thanked Adobe in the update notes released on the 8th.
One of the last appearances of the Adobe Flash Player happened around Christmas weekend, when the plugin issued notifications asking to be uninstalled. As will be explained later, removing the software is one of Adobe’s recommendations for before, during and after the end of its support.
Today, according to W3Techs, Flash is available on only 2.2% of websites.
And now, what to do?
This Thursday (31) marks the end of the Flash Player. This means that, as of today, the plugin will lose official support completely and will not receive updates. The content execution block, in turn, takes effect on January 12, 2021.
Sought by Tecnoblog, Adobe explains “there will be no alternative versions of Flash Player to download from third party sites authorized by Adobe”. The company also says that users should not use “unauthorized” versions of the software, as well as recommending complete removal of the program.
“The Flash Player will remain on people’s computers, unless they uninstall it. Uninstalling the Flash Player will help protect systems, as Adobe does not intend to release updates or security patches for it after the Data End of Life (EOL), ”they said.
Browsers will also (or have already) done their part. Mozilla, for example, has warned that Firefox will no longer support the feature in version 85, scheduled to reach users on January 26, 2021.
Soon after Adobe’s announcement, Google also said goodbye. “Chrome will continue to eliminate Flash for years to come, first asking for your permission to run Flash in more situations and eventually disabling it by default,” they said in 2017. “We will completely remove Flash from Chrome in late 2020.”
In September 2020, Microsoft detailed the end of support for Adobe Flash on Windows. In addition to providing an “Update to remove Adobe Flash Player,” Microsoft said Microsoft Edge will bid farewell to the plugin in January 2021. Internet Explorer has also begun to warn users of the closure.
But this is not the end of Flash games
Questioned by Tecnoblog about accessing SWF files in the future, the company stated that “since Adobe will no longer support Flash Player after December 31, 2020 and will block the execution of Flash content in Flash Player from January 12, 2021, Adobe strongly recommends that all users immediately uninstall Flash Player to help protect their systems. ” They also stressed the existence of new open standards as an alternative.
Even so, this does not mean the end of the countless animations, games and videos that existed and exist out there. This is because the Internet Archive, known for its gigantic collection of files and old internet sites, is already saving and emulating content for the plugin.
The initiative is part of the The Emularity project, which is also responsible for keeping countless MS-DOS games alive. That way, users can not only upload their SWF files to keep and tell the story, they can also access them directly through the browser.
Emulation is performed through Ruffle. “Although Ruffle’s compatibility with Flash is less than 100%, it plays a large part of Flash’s historical animation in the browser, at a uniform and accurate rate,” they announced in November.
The reproduction does not need any download, nor the plugin installed on the computer. The only prerequisite is to use a WebAssembly-compatible browser, such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Safari. Then, just take advantage of the more than two thousand contents made for the plugin directly by your browser: archive.org.
Around here, I already used the collection a lot to have fun and remember games for Adobe Flash Player that marked my childhood and adolescence, such as the Ultimate Flash Sonic. And you, what do you most like to play on the platform?
With information: Ars Technica, Internet Archive (Blog) and Mashable