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An Ode to Flash

Grave with RIP Flash on it

Ah, the late 90’s and early 00’s were such a different time. We were so young and full of energy. It was also the time when the internet was really coming into its own. More and more people were getting into the web and starting to build websites. While these websites were mostly pretty plain during this early time, some did find a way to add a bit of... Flash.

That old flash and pizzazz

Flash was a bit of a game changer in how interactive a site could be and in some ways would be one of the first front-end tools on the web. It required a download on the client computer to do anything, but once that was done the website could be very interactive and, well, flashy. This allowed the internet to be a lot more than just informational. Games, videos, and other multimedia became popular and while other technologies were available at the time, Flash was easily the most common. YouTube was largely made possible by Flash video player support. 

Fast-forward to today and Flash is viewed a bit differently. What was once the most common way to make a site interactive is now a dying platform. End of life for Flash from Adobe is 2020, but most web browsers won’t run Flash right now. HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript have taken over most of the heavy lifting that was once something only the older tech could accomplish. All of that content that exists purely in Flash can hardly be viewed by anyone now without a lot of effort.

Gone in a flash

The web is ever changing and always evolving. What was once cutting edge is now the hard-to-believe past. Newer front-end technologies are hoping to avoid the pitfalls that plagued the likes of Flash by not having a download requirement on the client-side. The web is shifting more and more away from proprietary software like Flash, but is open-source software safe from the same fate?

Now we have fewer things that look like what Flash was and more front-end frameworks that bring flare to the UI of websites. ReactAngular, and Ember are all open-source, JavaScript-based, frameworks and seem like they are only beginning to gain popularity as more sites adopt this approach. These new tools make what was previously very difficult, or impossible, become much more accessible, and it seems to be moving the internet closer to a new shake up.

It is probably safe to say that while open-source software is less likely to completely die out like some proprietary software can when support runs out, it is still possible. It comes in more subtle things like that version of Drupal (like Drupal 6 recently) that is no longer supported, or a future where your Angular project is too out of date to run well on modern browsers. The only major difference is that with open-source software it is unlikely that there will ever be zero support for something because of the community-driven development.

While the future is somewhat uncertain, we can take a moment to appreciate the great progress made possible by Flash and similar technologies that really helped shape the internet into what it is today. While the modern internet has been cruel to Flash, we remember those simple games it made possible that we definitely never played when we were in computer class in school.



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Mike Goulding

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