With nearly one month of 2021 in the books and the spectre of Covid-19 exhausting all of us, let’s do a quick inventory of the memorable moments of the past three months, shall we?

  1. 11/3/2020:  US Presidential Election occurs (election called by media for Joe Biden on 11/9)
  2. 11/11/2020:  Rudy Giuliani, acting as personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, holds press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping to dispute election results
  3. 12/31/2020:  Adobe Flash support discontinued and officially sunset
  4. 1/5/2021:  Runoff for both Georgia US Senate seats
  5. 1/6/2021:  Twitter suspends and later kicks Donald Trump off of its platform for inciting the US Capital riot, resulting in a surge in downloads of Twitter-alternatives like Gab and Parler
  6. 1/22/2021:  r/WallStreetBets leads an army of day traders to dramatically drive up the price of Gamestop and AMC theaters (among others), which will eventually cause two hedge funds to close their short positions and fall into near bankruptcy, or put more succinctly by @ParikPatelCFA on Twitter:

Wait...what was #3!?!? No it can’t be! Cue Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’. RIP Flash.

As a child of the 90’s, I vividly remember merging onto the information superhighway and spending hours playing games on Newgrounds. And what technology made it possible to play audio and video in-browser back then? Flash.

The sheer numbers of games available, combined with my bad memory, makes it impossible for me to remember the names of any of these particular games, but check out the first Flash game ever created, a zombie game called AEvil. (For a full list of games click here.)

Flash’s ability to bring much needed interactivity to websites allowed it to stick around much longer than anyone could have predicted. (In fact YouTube used the technology in its first iteration back in 2005.) Eventually Flash developers just could not keep up with the demands of a rapidly evolving internet; security vulnerabilities, browser speed reduction, and mobile web issues eventually caught up to it.

To make matters worse In 2007, Flash’s mobile incompatibility forced YouTube to abandon the technology in order to be included with the launch of the iPhone. Steve Jobs may have put the nail in the coffin for good in 2010 with his (in)famous ‘Thoughts on Flash’ presentation.  The rest is history; now we have HTML5 to fill the gap (along with CSS and Javascript) that Flash left behind.

I did my own digging, and while interest in Flash has fallen since the late 2000’s, I think the real “flash point” (if you will) occurs around the summer of 2015 when the CW show, ‘The Flash’ overtook ‘Adobe Flash’ in Google search interest. (Sadly Flash Gordon and its amazing theme song have never really attracted much interest since 2004, as far as Google’s search trend data goes.)

But fear not. There are still ways to scratch that itch of ‘90s and ‘00s Flash game nostalgia. And we will be left with years of IT hilarity. 

Like the story from Dailan, China where a 20-hour battle was waged at the local train station to revert a Flash update to get their systems back up and running, all for locals to follow along via WeChat. The story has ups and downs, from when the team noticed something was wrong:

1411 hours. The station is back in crisis. Once again, we cannot use the printer.”

To when the team identified the source of the problem:

“0816 hours: After calls and online searches, we confirmed the source of the issue is American company Adobe’s comprehensive ban of Flash content.”

To when they banded together to slay their common enemy:

“Jan. 13, 0113 hours: ‘Wan Jia Ling station is fixed! Ling Ma shouted…we all gathered and confirmed. The room burst with cheers and applause.”

What a ride. The best part is that they installed a pirated version of Flash to solve the problem.

Or how about the South African tax office having to build a custom web browser with Flash built-in in order for people to be able to file their taxes. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail people!

Enough of the hilarity; I think Mike Davidson objectively positions Flash the best in his obituary to the technology:

Flash, from the very beginning, was a transitional technology. It was a language that compiled into a binary executable. This made it consistent and performant, but was in conflict with how most of the web works. It was designed for a desktop world which wasn’t compatible with the emerging mobile web. Perhaps most importantly, it was developed by a single company. This allowed it to evolve more quickly for awhile, but goes against the very spirit of the entire internet. Long-term, we never want single companies — no matter who they may be — controlling the very building blocks of the web. The internet is a marketplace of technologies loosely tied together, each living and dying in rhythm with the utility it provides.

Most technology is transitional if your window is long enough. Cassette tapes showed us that taking our music with us was possible. Tapes served their purpose until compact discs and then MP3s came along. Then they took their rightful place in history alongside other evolutionary technologies. Flash showed us where we could go, without ever promising that it would be the long-term solution once we got there.

So here lies Flash. Granddaddy of the rich, interactive internet. Inspiration for tens of thousands of careers in design and gaming. Loved by fans, reviled by enemies, but forever remembered for pushing us further down this windy road of interactive design, lighting the path for generations to come.

[Advertisement] Utilize BuildMaster to release your software with confidence, at the pace your business demands. Download today!