Adobe Flash is Dead

Honestly, it feels as though Flash has been dead for some time. But today Adobe officially announced the end of life for Adobe Flash and all I can say is YES! Flash is an absolute resource hog on both CPU and battery and the Internet is and will be a better place without it.

Flash was originally designed for graphics, and vector graphics in particular. There was a time in our Internet history where designing websites in Flash was all the rage. Flash specialized in animations and much more “flashy” eye candy when it came to website design and UI. You may remember this period of time when you went to a website and there was an intro screen that played a flashy movie like intro the website you were visiting.

One of the first startups I was a part of offered a product to mid-size insurance brokers where they could build and modify their own website using a range of templates our product offered. We never offered any Adobe Flash templates but we got requests weekly for them. It was a hot trend that thankfully when away.

Adobe smartly realized Flash’s, and the products they built to program Flash was on its way to being obsolete as developers were moving away from media rich intros to their websites and website user interfaces that didn’t incorporate a range of motion and animations into their design. Adobe determined that adding video playback was Flash’s future value. The problem was that Flash was designed to be a graphic based engine, not a video playback/encode/decode engine. Yet that is exactly how Adobe evolved the product and it made developers lives easier since they could embed the Flash player into their websites and easily tie in their content delivery network (CDN) using a few simple lines of code.

From a lot of the design experimentation our startup was doing at the time, I had a strong sense Flash player and video were not going to play well together and even as my time as an analyst I’ve been on record saying Flash was not the most efficient video player and hogs tremendous CPU resources and thus drains battery faster.

Adobe’s PR unit even got on me during this time having seen my comments in the media and on TV spots. They claimed Flash had no impact on CPU and asked me to run many tests. Which I did, and was able to quantify for them that Flash indeed clogged up CPU cycles, and in many cases caused the processor to heat up and thus turned on your computers fan all contributing to battery drain.

Flash has remained a backbone of the Internet for much of the Internet’s past 15 years or so. Even during the Netbook days I remember both Intel and NVIDIA actively working on solutions to bring lower power processors to Netbooks which could also play Flash. The reason was Netbooks simply would not sell if Flash player was not supported.

Flash was also a culprit for many critics as to why the iPad could never be considered a true computer. Comments flew around from pundits in reviews and commentary saying they could never use an iPad for all their needs because it couldn’t play Flash. All of this was simply a recognition of just how embedded Flash had become for most sites to handle their video. Flash was not the best solution for video playback, it was, however, the easiest and that is why so many sites adopted it.

There is another, perhaps lesser known, Flash player angle today which is just another reason I gladly say good riddance. Website scammers and hackers have been using the Flash Player download as a way to embed malicious code onto people’s computers. I first realized this when we bought a new Mac for my wife as she went back to school to get an additional teaching credential for special education. I set the Mac up for her and shew as off and running. During the course of her school work, she was required to learn new educational tools all which required Flash Player. But as she started to visit different websites for lesson plan ideas, or other educational information she kept being inundated with pop-ups saying she needed to install or update her Flash Player. I didn’t realize all this until she came to me one day and said her computer was slow and things were popping up asking her to install random tools. When I took a look, I found her Mac riddled with malware and spyware galore. She explained what these sites kept asking and then showed me the ones she was needing to visit. Sure enough, I saw the same popups and followed the download it was asking her to install. The install was not the official Adobe Flash page but something else entirely. It was then I realized hackers and scammers have learned that people are so conditioned to their need for Flash that they didn’t hesitate to download whatever the site was asking them so long as it was hidden under the guise of the Flash Player.

For all of these reasons and more, I am glad Adobe is ending Flash’s life. It has honestly made the web a worse place for more than a decade. The challenge will be for Adobe to work with the instructions where Flash is embedded most. Areas like education, and many different enterprise verticals. These are not industries that move fast but ones that move extremely slow. Hopefully, 2020 is enough time for these companies to adapt but they need to understand it is time to move faster to adopt solutions that are not Flash based sooner than later.

There will also be an onus on the browser companies to help make this transition. Apple has had Flash off by default for many years and has been aggressive at trying to move the industry away from Flash. Google and Microsoft still have work to do and hopefully, they will all work to make this transition smooth.

We are actively transitioning the Internet from websites to apps. This transition will still take time but the killing off of Flash is another step in this direction.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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