Adobe taps Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Mozilla to kill Flash by 2020. Furthermore, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have also announced their own plans to help Adobe kill Flash. Three years lead time is a lot when deprecating any technology, but Adobe argues that several industries and businesses have been built around Flash technology, including gaming, education, and video. The company does, however, support Flash games on its platform, and so it is sharing a migration path for developers, noting that open web standards like WebGL and HTML5 have rapidly advanced to offer many of the web game development capabilities provided by Flash. But the company notes that many of the largest developers on the Facebook platform, including King and Plarium, have managed to migrate at least one Flash game to HTML5 “with minimal impact to their existing customers.” Facebook is outlining two options for game developers: HTML5 — Supported by all major browsers today, without the need for plugins, this is the best path forward for web game development. Gameroom — Facebook’s PC desktop gaming app was built to support games in native or web formats developed from game engines and standards including cocos2D, HTML5, Unity, Unreal, and WebGL. Last year, Chrome started asking users’ permission to run Flash when sites needed the plugin. The next steps include prompting users for permission to run Flash in more situations (in the summer of 2018, Chrome will ask for your permission to run Flash every time you restart it), disabling Flash by default, and eventually removing Flash completely from Chrome toward the end of 2020. Unlike Google, Microsoft has laid out a slightly more detailed timeline: Through the end of 2017 and into 2018 — Edge will continue to ask users for permission to run Flash on most sites the first time the site is visited, remembering the user’s preference on subsequent visits. Users will be able to re-enable Flash in both browsers.
Flash will officially be dead in three years. Adobe today announced it will stop updating and distributing its Flash Player at the end of 2020, encouraging content creators to migrate existing Flash content to open formats. Furthermore, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have also announced their own plans to help Adobe kill Flash.
Flash is a multimedia software platform used for building animations, web apps, desktop apps, mobile apps, and mobile games, as well as streaming audio and video. It displays text, vector graphics, and raster graphics but can also be used to capture mouse, keyboard, microphone, and camera input.
The history of Flash is tricky to follow, but it arguably begins in November 1996, when Macromedia acquired a small company called FutureSplash. Macromedia re-branded and released FutureSplash Animator as Macromedia Flash 1.0, which was made up of a graphics and animation editor called Macromedia Flash and a player known as Macromedia Flash Player. Adobe acquired Macromedia in December 2005 and in turn rebranded the two again by replacing the Macromedia prefix with Adobe.
So, why is Adobe finally deciding to kill Flash now? The company argues “open standards like HTML5, WebGL, and WebAssembly” have matured over the past several years to the point where they can handle “many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered.” Adobe explains the trend over the past few decades as: helper apps became plugins, which in turn became open web standards. “Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly in the browsers and deprecating plugins,” Adobe explained.
This is true. Support for plugins has been slowly but surely killed off, with only one exception: Flash. In fact, Adobe’s plugin is also the only one natively supported by the major browsers, and so it is naturally the last one to fall.
Three years lead time is a lot when deprecating any technology, but Adobe argues that several industries and businesses have been built around Flash technology, including gaming, education, and video. As such, Adobe will keep issuing regular security patches, maintaining OS and browser compatibility, and adding features and capabilities as needed through 2020.
The company will, however, “move more aggressively to EOL Flash in certain geographies where unlicensed and outdated versions of Flash Player are being distributed.” We asked for more details on what exactly “aggressively end-of-life-ing Flash” entails, which geographies the company is referring to, and when this might occur. The company declined to share details at this time.
That said, Adobe’s partners were more than happy to outline their plans.
It’s hard to discuss Apple’s role in the demise of Flash without mentioning Steve Jobs’ infamous essay in April 2010 brutally criticizing the technology. Posthumously, Jobs will get his wish.
And of course, Apple isn’t missing the opportunity to emphasize it paved the path to Flash’s grave:
Apple users have been experiencing the web without Flash for some time. iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch never supported Flash. For the Mac, the transition from Flash began in 2010 when Flash was no longer pre-installed. Today, if users install Flash, it remains off by default. Safari requires explicit approval on each website before running the Flash plugin.
Apple also argues that Safari’s rendering engine WebKit supports “the latest standards,” including HTML Video and Media Source Extensions, HTML Canvas and WebGL, CSS Transitions and Animations, WebRTC, and WebAssembly.
Never mind that other browsers are much further along than Safari. In terms of not supporting Flash, Safari is way ahead.
Check and mate.
Unlike Adobe’s other four partners, Facebook doesn’t make a browser. The company does, however, support Flash games on its platform, and so it is sharing a migration path for developers, noting that
open web standards like WebGL and HTML5 have rapidly advanced to offer many of the web game development capabilities provided by Flash. Facebook will also be hosting training webinars on August 30 and October 25 to teach developers about effectively migrating games off Flash with minimal impact to their business.
Indeed, while games built in Flash will run on Facebook until the end of 2020, Facebook would like to “strongly advise developers to follow the timelines set by browsers, as this may impact your decision to migrate sooner.” If you need a timeframe to work towards, Facebook points to the summer of 2018 — that’s when Chrome will require click-to-play for Flash-based content (see the Google section below for more).
Facebook only has “more than 200 HTML5 games” on…