It appears that Adobe Systems has announced the end of life for its iconic Flash product by the end of 2020, giving web developers who relied on this ground-breaking technology to deliver content across multiple platforms with a degree of fidelity and clarity that was not widely available from other sources at the time. While the Flash product has posed security risks and interoperability issues, it was Apple’s apparent decision not to allow Flash to be incorporated into its ubiquitous platforms that was apparently the deciding factor in killing the product. Look forward to seeing new products that include the open web standards such as HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly.
Considering the number of times that I had to uninstall, reinstall, and update my systems with the latest versions of Flash, I cannot say that I would not welcome a newer, more stable product capable of displaying my content with the fidelity I believe provides for an excellent user experience. There are few products like Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) – now a freely available open standard – to display documents on so many platforms and devices. Flash has served its purpose and now its time has come to be replaced with better technological solutions.
However, one must consider the impact on the hundreds of thousands of websites and millions of browsers that currently use Flash. Not to mention the video games, educational programs, and advertising which rely on the Flash product. Like all disruptive technologies, this one has a golden lining – producing additional business for those who will be able to redesign, re-engineer, and re-code existing sites to the newer standards.
For those who want to follow the Flash story, the original Adobe announcement can be found at Flash & The Future of Interactive Content | Adobe. Steve Jobs’ 2010 Flash-killer comments can be found at Thoughts on Flash – Apple. And a personal recollection from Stacy Jones at Fortune can be found at Adobe Flash Player: What Coders Can Learn From This | Fortune.com.
Disruptive technologies can appear out of the blue, but there are always signs of the coming impact if one is attuned to the trade press and company announcements. While the majority of breathless announcements of breakthroughs and paradigm-shifting technologies are mere puffery, serious comments from people like Apple’s Steve Jobs and Oracle’s Larry Ellison should be taken more seriously.
I would like to close this post with one of my favorite Steve Jobs jokes, which is truer than not. How many Apple programmers are needed to change a light bulb? What’s a light bulb, you mean the iLight? Even more close to the truth is the Bill Gates version for Microsoft programmers: none, Bill Gates has declared “dark” to be the new standard.