I’ve said it before, but this time Adobe is making it official: Flash is dead. Adobe just announced the official demise of its once-dominant multimedia platform, which will ride off into the sunset for the last time by the end of 2020.
Adobe says Flash was deprecated over time by new open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly. Web features that used to require plug-ins are built into browsers, making Flash a relic from the past that’s been tenuously hanging on for years. With Flash playing such a small role in our online browsing experience, it doesn’t make sense to continue dumping resources into the platform.
That’s the friendly way of saying Flash lost relevance when web browsing shifted to mobile devices, but its days were numbered even before that. Flash is plagued with security problems, was never designed with touch interfaces in mind, and has been far too processor and resource heavy to efficiently run on mobile devices.
The rise of HTML5 and CSS3 helped drive more nails into Flash’s coffin, as did the shift away from including the platform as part of standard operating system installations. When mainstream web browsers started blocking Flash content—including Safari and Google Chrome—that sealed the platform’s fate. Add to that YouTube and Facebook transitioning away from Flash, and you have the perfect death cocktail.
When Adobe conceded a couple years ago that HTML5 was the new standard, it was only a matter of time before an official end of life announcement was made.
Flash is Dead, but You Aren’t Screwed Yet
Adobe’s proclamation that Flash is dead doesn’t, however, mean holdout websites that haven’t transitioned away from the platform yet are out of luck. Adobe plans to provide security updates and bug fixes, as well as add new features as necessary, until the end of 2020.
The company is also working with some big names in the tech space to help make the final transition away from Flash easier. Adobe said in a statement,
In collaboration with several of our technology partners—including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla—Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.
That doesn’t mean your Flash-dependent website will stop working on January 1, 2021, although it might as well. There won’t be any support or updates from Adobe, and site visitors won’t be able to download Flash player. In other words, the excuse that you can’t switch away from Flash won’t fly any more.
Here’s what I said about Flash in 2015, and it still holds true today:
At this point, Flash is a liability anywhere it’s installed. If you don’t need it, don’t install it on your computer. If you do need it, ask yourself why, because it’s possible there’s an alternate solution available. If there isn’t, then it’s time for the companies giving you Flash-only services to change their content delivery systems.
There was a time when Flash was a revolutionary tool that transformed the web from static text and images into a powerful multimedia experience. That was a long time ago, and now even Adobe is making it clear: Flash is dead; long live HTML5.