Adobe Flash End of Life Timeline [infographic]

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Adobe is pulling the plug

After a long history of security troubles, Adobe finally gave up. Yesterday, July 25th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the world found out when Flash will be officially no more: End of 2020.

In a historic joint announcement, Adobe, Microsoft, Mozilla, Google, Apple, and Facebook gave us the timeline for the slow death of the Flash phenomena. The plugs of the Flash life support will be pulled one by one, slowly. It will take another three years for it to die, after much suffering.

A little history

Flash has a tumultuous history. Its precursor was a product named SmartSketch, published by FutureWave Software. In 1995 SmartSketch became FutureSplash, and FutureWave attempted to sell it to Adobe. Adobe turned it down. Macromedia acquired FutureWave in 1996 and renamed it Macromedia Flash.

Macromedia improved Flash significantly, and it became the most popular method to add animations, music, and interactivity to web pages. Adobe acquired Macromedia on December 3, 2005, when the Flash player was at version 8.

The hacks, the scares

Unfortunately, despite its success, many security issues troubled Adobe Flash over the years. In 2008, more than 1,000 hacked web sites infected computers delivering fake Flash Player updates. Three years later, in 2011, hackers were able to remotely access people’s computers through a newly discovered security hole. Since then, every few months, a new article or hack scare, real or invented, reminded us of the security issues embedded in Flash at its core. The long list of documented security holes kept on growing, and Flash, fairly or not, was declared unofficially “dead” many times over.

Adobe had enough, and it is pulling the plug. Officially this time. Thankfully they gave the world a 3 years timeline before delivering the final blow. They also worked with major browser providers to ensure a slow peaceful death, rather than an abrupt violent one.

What happens now?

Many websites still rely on Adobe Flash today. Things are changing, but as of August 2015 (2 years ago), almost 10% of all sites in the world used Flash. As of September 2016, the list included names like Hulu, The Huffington Post, CNN, The New York Times, Fox News, Vimeo, Oracle, Cisco, J.P.Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Salesforce, Monsanto, Starbucks and The Guardian (source).

Yesterday’s announcement sent a clear message to all of the sites that are still using Flash: they have 3 years to switch to something else. A long time, yes, but also that’s going to be a ton of work to do for many people. It also told the world that Adobe Flash is here to stay for the next 2.5 years; that should calm some of the panic and hysteria on the topic.

Websites that haven’t started the process of researching alternative solutions might be freaking out. Others that started or completed the conversion process, are probably very glad they invested in the effort to do so. Companies that cannot afford the conversion, or don’t know how to do it, might go out of business.

Alternative Technologies

There are several alternatives, but the standard one is going to be a combination of HTML5 and JavaScript, which is here to stay for a long time. The world is converging toward that direction, and betting on it is a safe thing to do. Not necessarily an easy technical challenge, as major browsers are still not fully compatible with each other, but things will hopefully get better over time.

I expect companies specialized in the conversion from Flash to something else to be booming in the next few months. I also expect the job market to be flooded with requests for JavaScript developers. Diehard Flash developers should be considering getting into that line of business. Their skill is not going to be in high demand in the near future, but their current knowledge of Flash might be a great asset in this time of change. Additionally, a Flash developer who is going to spend the next 3 years helping companies getting off Flash, will get to the end of 2020 with a solid grasp of alternative technologies. A good thing at this point.

Slow death timeline, an infographic

I created an infographic to show, in one image, the most important Flash related updates that will be made to the various browsers during the next few years. I hope you’ll find it useful.


FlashDeprecationTimeline Adobe Flash End of Life Timeline [infographic] infographic history art

Feel free to share this infographic on your site or blog. You have my permission. The only thing I ask is a link back to this post. Thank you.

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