The rise and fall of Adobe Flash

Adobe announced about stopping to update and support Adobe Flash Player, and starting from December 2020 the system will be officially brought to a stand. However, its way of life is definitely worth to be preserved. Adobe Flash’s journey from a simple graphics editor to a sophisticated integrated multimedia platform with extensive features has provided designers, artists, animators, and programmers with great tools for creating interactive animations and web applications. Most importantly, it has largely defined the face of the modern Internet, creating whole new classes of content. 

How it all started

The building of a house once inspired Jonathan Gay, the author of Adobe Flash, and since then, his dreams were all about architecting and constructing. Soon after that, he learned that architects do not physically construct houses, but they design them. As a result, Gay switched his attention to computer programming, which provided wide possibilities of designing. When he was at school, Gay presented his own graphic editor at the fair. Later, his father gave him a Macintosh version of the computer as a gift and boasted his son’s programming abilities to Mac creator Charlie Jackson. Gay recalled: “Charlie’s aim was to create a company that produces programs, but financially he couldn’t make it possible. So taking me as an employee turned to be his best option as he wouldn’t have to pay me before the program will be ready. That is how my first acquaintance with animation and creating games has happened.”

In 1993, Gay established a new company called FutureWave Software. However, it had no success among users and his graphical computer system with the help of stylus SmartSketch failed. This product with low sales figures was sold to Microsoft and Macintosh companies. Two years later, Gay presented the SmartSketch at the annual designing conference Siggraph. Though he could not sell any of his copies there, all people who observed Gay’s product told him the one same thing that he needed to turn his development into animation software. Gay had already been thinking about it, but he understood that the distribution of animations was limited to videotapes and only large studios could be interested in graphics’ investing, so his small enterprise would again get the failure. 

Later on, Gay found out about the Internet where he could set up his graphic’s platform and got the users’ appreciation. That thought motivated him to finally release the program Future Splash Animator, which became known as “a comprehensive graphic tool for websites.” As Gay predicted, the success of his product came immediately. Microsoft chose Splash for displaying video on its msn.com website, which then became the Internet Explorer’s home page. 

In 1996, Macromedia purchased Gay’s software, further increasing its product reputation, and made a big distribution of it as a free plug-in for the browser. The company Macromedia turned its name from Future Splash Animator into Flash 1.0. Since then, Flash had regularly updated programs and has changed very much throughout its existence.

Life and prosperity

Gay’s development fulfilled major online requests. First, Flash presented a platform for creating short videos that was much more functional than GIF and HTML technologies. Second, Flash worked in any browser and on any user’s computer. The system gave designers the opportunity to make interactive media and present them to large audiences. That meant Gay literally switched the way of designer’s work turning it to online.

“Visual part connected with system and innovation, and when the animation looped, the behavior also looped,” says Spielberg, a designer of the former Flash site. “Innovative features and significant possibilities online attracted artists worldwide.” In fact, Gay’s technology transformed the face of the web. Flash 2 already had buttons and sound effects. Therefore, it quickly became one of the most advanced tools for illustrators, animators, and those whose profession was just emerging, the web designers. “Flash is a sound, action, and interactivity. The Internet has been changed into a dynamic and immersive space.”

Among all websites, the one called Newgrounds has left the most influential legacy. It was set up by a teenager Tom Falp in the Pennsylvanian town of Percassi. Initially, Falp launched a magazine named New Ground for honoring his favorite series of video games. He also released the first examples on the Internet using one of its earliest services. In 1998, to prepare for an interview on television about his Assassin game, he changed his domain into the name Newgrounds.com that exists to this day. Falp was searching for a program that would allow him to make complex animation, and in 1998 he luckily got to discover Flash platform. Its importance was easily noticed. “Although the action script had limitations, it still matched all my needs,- he said. – Flash turned to be the only platform with a good level of interactivity.”

That year, Falp presented the site Teletubby Funland, in which Teletubbies smoked, drank vodka, and misbehaved with sheep. The site’s disrepute was vastly spread on the Internet, and in such a way it attracted a wide audience. In addition, Falp created a chat and forum on the web, so that people could add their content made on Flash. People could add their works in a section called the “portal”, but that process demanded a lot of manual labor that took too much time. And his next step became revolutionary: he produced an automatic publishing system. Users could download their own animations, take part in voting for other people’s works, make various chats and when the ratings of the animation or the game were too low, the file was automatically deleted. As a result, the website and technology regularly got more and more fans.

Going back to the development of Flash, the next breakthrough step was producing Flash 4. Its function of motion tweening, which has become one of the main features of the editor for many years, has been brought to the fore. In addition, Flash supported the mp3 format, which gave a push to the emergence of many online music players. 

In 2000, Flash 5 that was all about a new interface was set up. The highlight of the program was the emergence of the programming language action script. Previously, actions were collected only by selecting the functions in the drop-down menus. Now developers wrote their own scripts by themselves. The era of flash games has arrived.

In 2002, the Flash MX version was integrated into graphic packages. There was a separation of the program for designers and programmers. Another revolutionary feature was video support. The year of 2005 was the time of Flash 8. The new mode of object drawing added functionality that brought the features of the editor closer to Adobe Illustrator. In that year, Macromedia Flash became officially called Adobe Flash.

The version of Flash CS3 that appeared in 2007 was a part of Adobe Creative Suite. Updated interface, improved video work, the ability to export animation, the maximum integration of the editor with other programs were the core features of the Flash CS3. Besides, in one interview, Falp mentioned that the year 2007 was definitely the golden age of Flash. 

Adobe Flash advantages

Adobe Flash users distinguish such benefits of the platform as: 

  1. Appearance.

This is the first thing that a user notices in a well-made Flash site. Thanks to animation, high-quality graphics, and effects, sites on Flash look very attractive.

  • Convenience.

Flash technology allows the client to do everything in one application Adobe Flash Professional. The final file can simultaneously include any form of content (text, audio/video, vector, and 3D graphics).

  • Top-quality graphics.

Thanks to vector graphics, the user can achieve the highest image quality, while the file size remains relatively small. 

  • Interactivity.

Flash is one of the easiest ways to make an interactive application of almost any complexity. In addition, many people have been developing online flash games for website promotion, viral marketing, or just user entertainment.

Decline of Flash

In 2007, the Apple company refused to include support for Adobe Flash in the new iPhone model. The founder of the company, Steve Jobs, published a letter to users in which he called Adobe Flash unsafe and too demanding on the resources of a mobile device. He promised to bet on open standards and technologies, primarily on the HTML5 protocol and JavaScript, which had just appeared. HTML5 and JavaScript together allowed users to implement all the same features that Adobe Flash provided, so the use of the latter has been declining since the early 2000s.

Adobe itself partially acknowledged its defeat by launching Edge Animate’s HTML5 website development solution in 2011. Despite this, several largest companies remained faithful to Adobe Flash. For example, all the most popular games on Facebook, including Farmville, were made using this technology. In 2015, YouTube announced that it was switching to HTML5, emphasizing on a vulnerability in Adobe plugins.

In December 2016, Google announced that the recent version of the Chrome browser would use HTML5 as the default technology, and the playback of graphic elements using Adobe plugins would be blocked and launched only with the permission of the user. In 2017, Adobe officially claimed that it would stop updating and distributing Flash Player by the end of 2020. The company deleted the Flash Player download page with all archives of the previous versions. Flash-based content was blocked, and users got notifications about removing the obsolete platform from the devices.

Making a conclusion, we can definitely affirm that Flash has made a great impact on the Internet and its provided services to the users. Innovative and convenient Flash was the answer to a boring, static network. It was a prolific technology that inspired many creators to make new content on the web. Today existing web standards, such as HTML5, continue Flash legacy.

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