Farewell old friend: Tribute to Flash
The time has come: Flash is officially dying. It has been sitting in our Mac/PCs, resting peacefully, disabled, ignored, forsaken, waiting in its retirement home for its relatives to call.
It's sad to see Flash go. We had many fun times with it and it was always there for us when HTML was dumber and slower. It gave us accessible multimedia experiences when our bandwidth was lower than 128kb/s. It allowed for complex animations of text and characters, which a user could interact with, at a time when HTML's offering of animation was limited to the <marquee/> tag. It introduced developers to ActionScript, a programming language so robust and flexible that, even to this day, JS ES6 still hasn't beaten in terms of cross-browser compatibility. It allowed developers to easily create multimedia experiences for web, desktop and mobile in writing only one code base with Adobe AIR. It revolutionized the 2D animation industry, making possible many Disney feature films. And don't get me started with video games — just ask Cartoon Network or Warner Brothers. Overall, Flash contributed and pushed the boundaries of the web to get us all to the web we all know and love today.
I want to remember Flash as a good old friend.
No good deed goes unpunished
Flash isn't perfect. Adobe's announcement that it will stop supporting Flash in 2020 made headlines on
fake news tech news sites because of its popularity and how dependent we were on it. But the media's critical quotes for its gravestone are unjust: the truth is that this old friend of ours had more good deeds than sins in its lifetime.
It was up until 2015, when Google ditched Flash for HTML5 video (the new kid on the block), that we were still hanging out with Flash to watch our favorite YouTube videos. Thankfully most of us didn't even feel the transition. But if you think about it, it's thanks to Flash that YouTube was possible in 2005 when a standard HTML video compatibility for browsers wasn't even a thing. And QuickTime was … well, QuickTime.
Thank you Flash for Video!
We spent many hours playing simple, casual games made exclusively with Flash. Kids and adults loved playing the infamous FarmVille from Zynga or Playfish's Pet Society (acquired by EA). Back in the day, before kids were hypnotized by tablets, they would be entertained by trying out hundreds of games in kongregate.com using a mouse and keyboard. To this day, most of Kongragate's games are Flash based and a majority of its revenue comes from them:
...if we only look at new (released 2016-2017), successful (>$10k revenue) games, we see that both the number of games and the total revenue favors Flash, but only slightly. — Anthony Pecorella, Kongregate.com
HTML5 game engines, like Phaser, and the increasing adoption of new browsers are changing the gaming landscape, but Flash is still currently #1 in browser games.
Thank you Flash for Games!
Our old buddy Flash was really good with animations, so good that even complete TV shows were animated entirely with Flash. Awesome shows like Mucha Lucha! or Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends proved that Flash wasn't only a plugin that crashed every now and then because of bad memory management and poor garbage collection. Flash has also been used to produce some feature-length movies, like Hanna-Barbera's Top Cat. Take a look at the amazing "Mighty Eagle" sequence in Angry Birds: The Movie – made with our good ol' pal Flash. And last but not least, let's remember all those web series. One of my favorites was joeCartoon.com, home of classics like the interactive Frog in a Blender or the extremely violent Happy Tree Friends which was featured on MTV.
Thank you Flash for animation!
Flash was a pioneer of 3D in the browser, delivering 3D experiences with fast loading times before WEBGL was a thing. It was easy to develop 3D interactive sites with great ActionScript 3.0 libraries like Papervision3D and away3d.
Thank you flash for 3D!
Adobe AIR, released in 2008, was another brilliant idea. In some ways a descendant of Flash Player, but focused on desktop and mobile applications, it can compile and deliver installable packages for each desktop OS with only one code base, featuring multithreading, drag and drop, and window management, among other things.
It let people use applications like "BooMonsters", an animated virtual pet that wanders around your desktop. It also made it easy to create and publish mobile apps to iOS and Android — you may have installed and used apps made entirely with Adobe AIR and never noticed it. Back in the day, I had the opportunity to work on "Cluber Game", a mobile game on iPad for Michel group, and the development and publishing process was very straightforward. AIR also let developers create interactive experiences for completely unexpected screens, like this Fun-Van with giant screens on the sides where you could play a slot machine game using an iPad.
Fortunately, Adobe Air is not dying with Flash Player — it's alive and well, and Adobe will continue its development for years to come.
Thank you Flash for the AIR!
Most people aren't aware that Flash had its own programming language. It went through three big iterations, the latest one being a very robust, object-oriented, ecmascript-based language.
ActionScript 3.0 allowed developers to do all kinds of amazing things with the Flash Player and Adobe AIR, like:
- Programmatically create graphics or movie clips
- Brilliant event handling for custom classes and display list
- Filter effects for display objects, like WebGL does now
- Audio & video production, recording and streaming with the Media API
- Send, receive and stream data with HTTP, SSL, TCP, sockets with the Network API
- Access Window management, sensors, file system, local SQL, game input, GeoLocation, etc. with the AIR APIs
Thank you Flash for ActionScript!
Like it or not, Flash has been part of our lives. It's not without its bad moments, but try naming the perfect software. It's for these, and other reasons, why I will miss and remember Flash as a great technology that was there for us when nothing else was. Thank you to all the Flash, ActionScript, Adobe AIR, and Flex developers, and the whole community that spent so many hours bringing interactive web experiences to our desktops.
And to our good old friend, Flash, your legacy will live on forever. Thank you!
"That is your legacy on this Earth when you leave this Earth: how many hearts you touched." — Patti Davis