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A eulogy for Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash: January 1, 1996 to December 31, 2020

Today we pay our respects to a dear friend of ours, Adobe Flash. As American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, put it so clearly - "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

I think all of us here today would agree that Flash embodied this philosophy. Flash was a trailblazer of its time, providing countless opportunities for individuals to learn, connect, and be entertained for hours on end, especially before the age of YouTube and access to smartphones.

Flash's early roots can be traced back in the 1980s, long before we knew it as our loving Flash. Jonathan Gay, an American software developer, starting experimenting with writing graphics programs for his Apple II computer using Pascal. As he continued to hone his craft, he collaborated with a few individuals within a Macintosh based software company, Silicon Beach Software to create electronic games for consumers to play. One of the earliest successes was SmartSketch, which was a computer program where one could draw on a computer screen with an electronic pen.

Rolling into the 90s, the world wide web was right on the cusp of brimming popularity and Gay turned to leading his own company, FutureWave. He partnered with Microsoft for them to use his software for their MSN website, and eventually sold the rights in 1996 to Macromedia Flash, to which Adobe Flash was finally born (and officially titled as such in 2005 when Adobe purchased Macromedia).

The career of Flash expands multiple years as one of the most widely distributed applications on the Internet. Artists and designers flocked to Flash as a direct way to get their content out onto the web for users to view and interact with, ranging from adults for research purposes to kids (like myself!) watching videos during breaktime in their sixth grade typing class in the computer lab.

Let us take a moment and highlight some of the iconic moments that Flash gave us over these many years:

(Disclaimer: In the golden era of Flash, I was a nerdy little pre-teen and as result my fondest memories below may reflect the humor of an adolescent)


While Zombo was really just an inside joke from some folks from George Washington University, viewers enjoyed the conceptual humor of the site, which was just one long introductory page that led to an invitation to sign up for a newsletter. It really wasn't that funny, but hey - there wasn't a lot going on on the world wide web in 1999.

Homestar Runner

Alright, I admit - I spent too many hours watching stupid stuff on when I should have been studying as a kid. But who could forget Teenage Girl Squad and Strongbad emails? Some of these videos were the foundation of my humor in seventh grade, and I even then catch myself making a random joke here and there that traces back to something from the site. I'm a little apprehensive to re-watch some of the videos though as the nostalgia factor makes it a happy memory today and I really don't want to ruin that.

Any computer game from Newsgrounds, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, etc.

Back before STEAM and a wider access to different video games, kids including myself often floated to several different websites for additional online entertainment. Newsgrounds was one of those household examples, which hosted user generated content even beyond video games. Each of these sites still have access to a multitude of games, but will be replaces eventually with HTML5 or a different coding language.

Ok so who didn't play this game back in 2006? This was by far one of the most addicting games. I'm so glad someone already converted it because re-discovering I definitely went down the rabbit hole again.

Iconic Flash Videos

There are going to always be some iconic videos that will culturally stay in the minds of millennials. Videos including the Badger Song, End of the World, and The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny will forever be randomly quoted in my generation.

(sorry in advance for the ear worm!)


Flash, however, met its ending like any other entity from the passing of time. Approaching its later years, Flash struggled to keep up with the changing landscape. Its body became frail and vulnerable to cyberattacks, and we knew it wasn't long for this world, especially when Steve Jobs published a scathing letter against Flash in 2010 outlining his issues with the platform and his decision to no longer allow it on any iOS hardware products.

Back in 2010 this was quite a scandalous moment in the technology industry, but as the years went by more organizations and individuals began to agree with Jobs about the mounting issues with the program. And then in 2017 Adobe announced that they would discontinue making any updates to Adobe and focus on the newer kids on the block such as HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly. These successor standards continually matured over the years to serve as viable alternatives to Flash, and Flash just couldn't keep up.

Preparing for the long goodbye, Flash worked through its transition plan with designers, developers, and organizations over the next three years. Major browsers began to move away from Flash and began to use the other standards. And then at the end of one of the darkest years, Flash went quietly and peacefully into the night.

In closing, thank you Flash for being a pioneer of your time and of our lives. You set the stage for many developers and designers for years to come. We cherish you and are going to miss you.



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