Adobe, the company behind the popular PDF reader and Creative Cloud, has announced plans to end production of Flash player by 2020.
The Flash plug-in for web browsers first became available in 1996, 21 years ago. It has been used over this time in a variety of applications; from viewing SWF animations to streaming video and audio. It also supports vector and 3D graphics as well as the ActionScript programming language. Adobe stated back in 2013 that more than 1 billion desktops use Flash, and more than 400 million of those update to the newest release within 6 weeks.
Throughout its lifetime, Flash plug-in has remained free and even came bundled in Windows 8 and later operating systems. In 2014 it was used each day by 80% of desktop users, according to Google. The current figure is just 17%. All major browsers, including mobile variants have maintained support for Flash over its lifetime, although in more recent years this support has taken a back step for newer emerging technologies. Much of the functionality of Flash has been mirrored by its newer rival, HTML5. HTML5 allows multimedia support in newer browsers without the need to install or update a plug-in.
Flash has been criticised by tech companies and experts over the years due to its relatively large overhead and security flaws when not updated. Apple, being one of the most outspoken critics, never supported flash on any of its IOS products. The past year has seen Chrome, Edge and Safari all block Flash by default, a move which signalled the beginning of the end for the widely-used Adobe product.
2020 will mark an end of an era for Flash, but one that feels like it has been a long time coming. HTML5 standards have been implemented across all modern web browsers, and the need for Flash just isn’t there anymore. An end to Flash will bring with it obvious improvements in security and just pure battery life on laptops and other mobile devices that still support the web technology.