This Summer Marks the End of Flash as the World Abandons the Pioneering Technology. In case you hadn’t heard, a huge important tech era just came to a close.
Say goodbye to Adobe Flash, which was dealt its final few blows in the last few months by a world that’s already moved on to newer things…things more appropriate for the way we interact with the web.
Up until now, Flash technology has been the way we have been viewing video, streaming music, creating digital advertising, and playing games. Pretty much any rich content made use of Flash.
Steve Jobs condemned Flash for several reasons more than five years ago and started the slow death of the technology that ruled the web for more than a decade.
First Apple, then Amazon, Alexa, Google and Mozilla
Maybe you’ve read Steve Jobs’ famous blow-off letter to Adobe over its Flash product. It definitively spells out each and every problem with Flash and explains why iPhones don’t use Flash. Considering the history the two companies have together (pioneering the world of desktop publishing), the letter delivers a searing message that painfully cuts right to the bone. It’s a divorce decree for what began as the world’s most perfect marriage.
Flash is certainly having a rough time of it. Since that famous 2010 letter, there have been damming security reports, rising competitors, and further criticisms which have led to an all-out industry separation from the once-dominant king of rich media content.
In a final rush to abandon the sinking ship this summer, all the major players have now forsaken Flash. Last month Amazon also ditched it, no longer accepting Flash ads on its website. Last July, Mozilla Firefox starting blocking Flash, and Apple Safari’s been blocking out of date versions of Flash since February.
But it was just recently that Google struck the final blow: starting on September 1st, their Chrome browser no longer auto-plays banner ads created using Flash technology.
Banner advertising, Flash’s last stand
One area where Flash has continued to thrive is with online advertisers, who love to use it for their ubiquitous banner advertisements. But with this summer’s developments (browsers blocking Flash), they’ll have to adapt or die.
The consequences are significant for these online marketing agencies, who certainly by now should have been upgrading their teams with HTML 5-proficient ad developers (HTML 5 is the replacement technology for Flash).
If not Flash, then what? HTML 5 is the new platform of choice but others are in the workings by joint committees formed with members from all the major players (except Apple and Facebook of course).
What went wrong? The 2010 Steve Jobs letter
Steve Jobs was of course ahead of his time with his letter but it wasn’t long before the rest of the world knew exactly what he was talking about.
Security has been the main issue for Flash, but Jobs also cited the following:
- Flash products are only available from Adobe, and controlled entirely by Adobe: not “Open”
- Flash eats up battery life like crazy due to its outdated way of decoding video
- Apple doesn’t want to have to rely on third-party Adobe for its apps to run, so no Flash for Apple apps
- Flash websites aren’t “touch” friendly (try hovering on a flash menu using your touch screen!)
Flash’s biggest crime: bad security
After the infamous letter, the security of Flash began to have the worst reputation in the industry. While other companies (i.e. Microsoft) cleaned up their act and made their products more secure, Adobe dropped the ball.
Two months after the Jobs Letter, PC World ran an article explaining why Adobe products caused serious security vulnerabilities. What made Adobe so successful became their downfall: the cross-platform capabilities were precisely what was making it so vulnerable to hacking. While Acrobat could be patched up against hackers, Flash was another story. They suggested “weaning” off Flash and transitioning to HTML5.
Exactly one year and one week after Jobs made his letter public, a security report from famous Kapersky Lab further propelled the downfall of Flash. They reported that along with Reader and Oracle’s Shockwave, Flash accounted for 8 of the top 10 system vulnerabilities in part of 2011.
And even before Steve Jobs’ letter of 2010, Symantec had reported in 2009 that a code execution in Flash was the most attacked vulnerability of that year. Jobs even made reference to this report in his letter.
In 2012 Google announced that their Jellybean (Android 4.1) would not support Flash as a default. Two months later, Adobe responded by announcing they’d no longer provide updates for Android (you may still install it by referring to Adobe’s update archives, however).
What the stats say?
Flash is on its way out…slowly but surely over the last five years it’s been slipping in market share.
Over the past year alone, the percentage of websites using flash has gone down from roughly 13% to just a hair over 10%. Still clinging to that last vine as they fall over the cliff, Adobe self-reports its own Flash stats with surprisingly good cheer. Of course the picture looks much rosier from their perspective:
- 24 of the top 25 Facebook games were built using Flash technology
- there are still more than 3 million developers still using Flash (that can change quickly!)
- More than 500 million devices are Flash-ready, with this number to double by the end of 2015 (really……?)
Other sources put today’s percentage of websites using Flash a little higher (probably because of the third-party banner advertising on many sites), but the trend is clear: down down down:
You will find more statistics at Statista
What will happen to Adobe?
Adobe, meanwhile, is not suffering. Since 2010 when Steve Jobs issued his damming letter, their stock has risen considerably. On October 8, 2010 the stock price was 26.99. Today it’s at 80.31.
Inventors of the PDF format and original software supplier to Apple, Adobe has been synonymous with desktop publishing since the mid-1980s. Devouring their competitors (Macromedia, 2005) and continuing to provide digital publishing and marketing products, they’re forging ahead. Flash wasn’t originally their product anyway: it came with the Macromedia acquisition.
So, even Adobe can afford to say “So long, Flash.” and move on to better things ahead.