The death of Flash, and why it matters.

No, not the superhero. He's enjoying a successful TV comeback. Instead we're talking about Adobe Flash, a software platform used for websites around the world - it helped build the internet as we know it. However, after 20 years it seems that it's truly time for Flash to die.

What is Flash?

Flash (originally known as FlashWave) was originally conceived in 1995 - and has since become a prominent platform used to display text, graphics, provide animations, video games and applications. Platforms like YouTube were built using flash, and many sites still are. 

Understanding the ins and outs of Flash isn't important, but understanding its influence is. Chances are, in 2005, if you ever visited a website that was more then just text and images then Flash was used to create it. It was, and for some still is, an essential method of communicating with audiences interactively.

What's happening?

Flash has been seeing a slow decline since the beginning of the 21st Century. With the prominence of mobile devices the flaws with flash became more apparent and relevant. Specifically:

Resource: Flash isn't efficient when it comes to utilising hardware power. It can, when badly created, be a complete resource hog, slowing down computers and testing user patience in an ever more impatient world.

Battery life: As a direct consequence from the above, this also means that mobile devices suffer from shorter battery life when using Flash. The smartphone or laptop has to work harder and uses more juice as a result. It's worth mentioning at this point that battery tech hasn't significantly improved in decades, so developers are forced to push for ever more efficient software. 

Security: From a PR standpoint it seems every month a new security flaw is found with the platform - posing considerable risk to users. These are almost always fixed quickly, but the weaknesses have made developers ever more cautious. 

All these culminated in a huge power play by the late Steve Jobs. He was increasingly concerned about the platform and decided to opt out of Flash for the iPhone. In an open letter to Adobe he said: 

Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.
— Steve Jobs

And then, two weeks back, it seemed that everyone was just fed up with Flash. With yet another security flaw both Firefox and Chrome blocked Flash from being used in their browsers, at least until Adobe fixed the issue.

Such a strong move was further supported when the Chief of Security at Facebook went on to say: 

It appeared the industry had had enough and was getting ready to cut the life line on the platform. Articles have appeared in their dozens each heavily criticizing Flash: Wired, Kotaku, The Verge, and many more. There's even an "Occupy Flash" group rising in prominence.

Why does it matter?

Many argue that the death of Flash is a necessity for internet progress. It's issues with resourcing, battery life and most importantly, security haunt it. It could be that by finally ridding ourselves of Flash and moving to other platforms (YouTube and Netflix use the much more secure HTML5 for example) we could usher in a new era of creativity and efficiency.

On the other side though, Flash may be in decline but it's still used for a variety of systems. Many casual game developers rely on it to create their products, Amazon Instant Video actually uses it on some browsers, and (less of an issue) most video pop up adverts utilise the platform. 

It seems that the death of Flash is inevitable, so it's best not to create anything using it. The question will be, when it goes, whether a chunk of the internet be lost, or whether instead developers and creators will choose to adapt.