The Death of Flash


It’s finally official. The Flash is dead, not the superhero red masked  crime-fighter but a much more pervasive and powerful application that kept  the web alive with graphics for over 10 years.  Adobe has announced Flash will no longer be  supported at the end of 2020.  If you  follow any tech news sites you probably have seen a headline for people  demanding the death of Flash.  Social  media trolls condemn this demon of an application as “horrible” or “a  disgrace to my battery’s power”, but the truth is that Flash played an  important role in the life of interactive and beautiful websites.

Working in the microcomputer industry for over 35 years has given me the  opportunity to see many business changes, but one of the more curious things  was the relationship Adobe (Adobe owns Flash) had with Apple.  In the beginning Apple and Adobe were  kindred spirits.  Apple’s  groundbreaking Laserwriter with postscript technology paired with the Adobe  font library helped make the Apple Laserwriter one of the most prolific  printers ever to hit the market.  What  wasn’t widely known is that for every Laserwriter sold, Apple paid a bit of  coin to Adobe in licensing fees.  A  contract that Steve Jobs very much disliked.   His general attitude is that Apple made meant Apple made.

But I tell that story to tell another, I had met Steve a few times and when  his article "Thoughts on  Flash” came out, I couldn’t help but wonder why he focused so much  energy on defeating Flash.  At first I  chalked it up to his maniacal attitude but then it came to me, Flash was simply  too powerful.  You see, Flash’s ability  to create sophisticated applications was in direct competition with his newly  formed “App Store”.  If programmers  could create identical applications outside of Apple’s control in the Flash  environment, there would be no Apple profit for the “App Store” and thus no  need for programmers to learn to develop in the Apple sandbox.

The development of the App Store was truly a genius Jobs move but Adobe  Flash was just too great a risk and was, I believe, the true purpose for the  letter to the internet.  To close the  loop the industry fell in lock step.   “Do away with this hideous thing called Flash!!!”  Fast forward to 2018 and poof! applications  and websites no longer use the Flash plug-in.   It is all HTML-5 now and developers have re-written code to use the  graphics capabilities of HTML-5.  Its  funny, most of the command language and procedures came from the Flash  toolbox and HTML-5 is simply another way of creating cool Flash-like  webpages.  The only issue to all of  this is now programmers must write for different browsers because not all  implementations of HTML-5 are the same.

So in an essence, we have taken a small step backwards, but I believe for  the better.  Creating a native HTML-5  browser based language is the future.   Mark my words, very soon there will no longer be a “Desktop.” You will  be running all of your applications from a browser window.  You are already seeing it now, with Google  Apps, Office 365 and even Adobe has the Creative Cloud.  Your browser will be the launching pad for  all your computing needs.  Technically,  there is no need to have local applications when they can be hosted and  executed in the cloud.  So while Steve  fired the first bullet disguised as a security risk, I believe it was  necessary for the industry to embrace change.

The next time you open up your app store, just remember, this thing could  be on the web…