Network administrators may have Dec. 31, 2020, marked on their calendars as a day of celebration. In just over five months, Adobe Flash—once a major breakthrough in online video, eventually a security hassle—reaches its end of life. Adobe will remove Flash Player from its website and stop issuing security updates.

Flash was the culmination of work by Jonathan Gay, who co-founded FutureWave Software in 1993. The software grew out of pen computing and the desire for a vector tool that supported animation (unlike Illustrator). In 1996, FutureWave began shipping a program called FutureSplash Animator that major companies, including Disney, used.

Disney was also working with Macromedia’s Shockwave framework, and as a result, Macromedia bought FutureWave in 1996. FutureSplash Animator became Macromedia Flash and a website mainstay of the early 2000s, making the web more interactive and engaging. Adobe purchased Macromedia in 2005 and added Flash to its Creative Suite. YouTube initially relied on Flash to play videos.

All was well—until the iPhone

Initially, Apple and Adobe were playing well together, but Apple wasn’t satisfied with Flash’s performance on its new product. Apple pulled out of running Flash on the iPhone, and YouTube switched to a mobile-optimized format so the iPhone could ship with a native YouTube app in 2007. Flash was out in the cold. A scathing 2010 treatise by Steve Jobs didn’t help matters:

“We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash. Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”

With the biggest player in a mobile world taking that stance, developers looked to other solutions. A website that relied on Flash wasn’t usable on an iPhone. Still, Flash has persisted simply because it was once so widespread. Because so many versions exist and so many users haven’t updated to new versions, it’s been an easy target for hackers.

Adobe recommends uninstalling any instance of Adobe Flash before Dec. 31 to avoid future problems.

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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