Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Adobe Announces Flash’s End of Life in 2020

Steve Jobs in April of 2010, just as Apple was preparing to ship the first-generation iPad:

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 250,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

Adobe, today:

Adobe has long played a leadership role in advancing interactivity and creative content – from video, to games and more – on the web. Where we’ve seen a need to push content and interactivity forward, we’ve innovated to meet those needs. Where a format didn’t exist, we invented one – such as with Flash and Shockwave. And over time, as the web evolved, these new formats were adopted by the community, in some cases formed the basis for open standards, and became an essential part of the web.

But as open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have matured over the past several years, most now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered and have become a viable alternative for content on the web. Over time, we’ve seen helper apps evolve to become plugins, and more recently, have seen many of these plugin capabilities get incorporated into open web standards. Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins.

Given this progress, and in collaboration with several of our technology partners – including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla – Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.

Flash had its place and time on the web — the place being in games and highly-interactive websites, and the time being in the early 2000s. But we are long past that now, so — for many — this announcement is perfunctory: I bet most people don’t come across a single .swf file in a typical day of web browsing. In fact, I’m genuinely surprised that they set its end-of-life so far in the future. I haven’t had Flash on my Mac for several years now and I’ve only found a handful of sites in that time with a missing element.

I cited Jobs’ letter not because I think Apple caused the end of Flash on the web, but because Apple’s products dramatically accelerated its demise. If you wanted to, you could put the blame on Adobe — or assign them credit, depending on your perspective — for failing to ever ship an acceptable implementation of Flash for any mobile browser. But one of the biggest pushes came in 2007, with the launch of the iPhone and the Apple TV, both of which had a YouTube app; the second push came in 2010, with the immediate success of the iPad. Even by then, it was clear to all but the most stubborn Adobe employees that Flash would eventually be gone.