It is always sad to see a great software, or a website meeting its demise. About five years ago, on September 30, 2014, Orkut was officially closed down. Adobe has announced that it would end support for Flash by December 2020. Google has also announced that Google Search will not index Flash content or Shockwave Flash any more. Google, Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla have all announced that they would retire Flash from their respective browsers. Sad, but true.
Why did this happen? Well, the Internet technology grew, developed, evolved, but Flash did not. Apple was the first to start the process of its demise by announcing that iPhone would not support Flash as it was a drain on the batteries. There were also security risks involved while using the Flash Player, a small plugin that was necessary to play any Flash movie. Cross-site scripting, executable code, pesky advertisements and backdoor malware installation. Hackers use the the external file called a .dll (dynamic link library) that is launched by Flash player which throws open your operating system to them.
As web developers, we also had problems with Flash based websites. Many times, they were not scalable, which caused problems in viewing the websites properly, even though Flash websites were beautiful and refreshing. Scalability and responsiveness became all the more important when mobile phones became the device of choice for almost everyone for viewing online content.
Even though Flash by itself was an amazing platform to make rich, engaging content, the development of HTML5 and CSS3 made it outdated. Instead of the LFV format, the MP4 format became more popular, as it did not require an extra piece of software to be downloaded to play audio-visual content.
In terms of SEO too, it was extremely difficult to use metatags in Flash, or add keywords or description into the Flash movie, as the spiders would not index it directly. So a web designer had to do the SEO on the web page into which the Flash movie was embedded. Adobe did not really develop Flash as it could have, instead, Adobe developed Adobe Animate, another platform built on top of Flash, which is what they will continue to support beyond 2020’s.
When I started using Flash, it was owned by Macromedia which had other great software like Director (retired in February 2017) and Fireworks too. For us old timers, Flash was a boon, as it allowed us to go beyond crappy looking GIFs to great animations. We were equipped with making animations using scalable, vector graphics, and animate them. I personally used Flash to make some great interactive Flash movies for my clients. Using Macromedia Flash and Macromedia Director, I have made several interactive presentations and CD ROMS for my clients. This author is one of the very few programmers who could integrate all media elements using Flash Action Script and Director’s in-built language called Lingo. It was multimedia programming at its most enjoyable, because it enabled us to integrate high definition, rich graphics, videos, websites, Power Point presentations, web pages… almost anything into menu driven, executable software packages.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of Flash was YouTube. YouTube used Flash as their backbone to stream video content to browsers. In those days, if you downloaded a YouTube movie, the format used to be .flv or a Flash Video. Flash was also heavily used in the advertising industry, for making flash banners, and interactive and engaging websites. Flash was also a boon for the animation industry, and in turn, the media and entertainment sector. Several feature length animated films have been made using Flash. A few of them are Sita Sings the Blues, which is a visual treat, Abra-Catastrophe! and many more. Nickelodeon used Flash in many of their cartoon series. What made Flash so attractive? Flash was less cumbersome, could be learnt easily even by a novice, and with little programming knowledge, Flash films offered great interactive features, making them more engaging, allowing better interactive communication between the producers and the audiences. Flash banners could also be programmed to have links to websites or other web pages, which helped in Digital Marketing.
Today, there are several apps that allow you to make 2D as well as 3D animations. They are light-weight, not heavy on the memory and the battery. So even though Flash has become a pain, and most web developers and Digital Marketing people will be glad to see Flash go away, it deserves a decent Good Bye!