Flash... not the saviour of the universe

It doesn’t seem like long ago when trying to open websites would often be accompanied by the message ‘this website needs Flash’ or ‘this website has Flash content’ – with the promise of some exciting animations or video. Now, however, Adobe Flash Player has officially been put to rest, with Adobe no longer offering security updates for Flash and users being encouraged to uninstall it.

Flash was very much of its time but, back in 1996 when it was released, it really was revolutionary, offering interactivity and rich animations to websites for the first time. In the early days of dial-up internet, it was the fastest and simplest way to stream video and play games.

By 2009, according to Adobe, Flash was installed on 99 per cent of internet-enabled desktop PCs. FarmVille from the gaming company Zynga, which was popular with many age groups, relied on Flash to run; the original version of FarmVille was closed on New Year’s Eve.

But time moved on and Flash failed to keep up with the smartphone era; Apple refused to let Flash run on its iPhones and iPads, with Steve Jobs saying it was ‘cumbersome to use on a touchscreen, unreliable, a security threat and a drain on battery life’.

Because Flash Player is a relatively old plug-in, it became increasingly vulnerable to online threats like viruses and hackers. In 2015, Apple disabled the plug-in in its Safari web browser by default, while Google Chrome also started blocking some Flash content. Over the years, there were many malicious attacks using Flash for deployment and dissemination of malware.

In a farewell post, Adobe said: “Thanks for using Adobe Flash Player. We're proud that Flash had a key role in evolving web content across animation, interactivity, audio, and video - and we're excited to help lead the next era of digital experiences.”

Article Details

Ian Jepp
25 February 2021