The end of Adobe Flash, one of the internet’s most iconic technologies

Flash remade the internet, but Steve Jobs’ decision not to support it for the iPhone started a decadelong decline that finally ended on Dec. 31, 2020.


January 5, 2021

In the original The Wizard of Oz (1939), the film transitions from black and white to color when Dorothy transports from Kansas to the Land of Oz.

A similar thing happened to the internet in the mid-1990s.

The internet was once a land of text blocks and dreary backgrounds. But according to How To Geek, everything changed in 1996 when a company called Macromedia acquired an animation tool called FutureSplash and rebranded it as Macromedia Flash 1.0.

This led to a creative burst over the next decade

As Flash spread across the internet as a browser plug-in, designers entered the fray.

Browser games, interactive websites, web comics, and other colorful content took over the internet.

In 2005, Adobe acquired Macromedia for $3.4B and set out to make it even more ubiquitous.

Flash laid the groundwork for today’s video streaming world

With a file format called FLV, any browser that had the Flash player installed could play video.

As How to Geek reminds us, even now-massive sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and Hulu once depended entirely on Flash.

The beginning of the end

The downfall of Flash began in 2007, when Apple decided not to support it on the new iPhone. In 2010, Steve Jobs penned the famous open letter “Thoughts on Flash,” which laid out a savage critique of the technology:

  • Rapid energy consumption
  • Poor performance on mobile devices
  • Security dependence on one company (Adobe) made it a huge risk

Flash simply wasn’t made for the rising mobile world. And soon, new web standards (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) became the norm.

In 2017, Adobe announced it would discontinue Flash. Support officially ended on Dec. 31, 2020.

There won’t be a return to Kansas for this trailblazing internet tech. But if you feel nostalgic, projects like BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint and Ruffle have dutifully preserved Flash’s rich history.

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