The end of life for Adobe's Flash software nears, but don't expect a swift death

adobe flash logo

On Tuesday, Adobe provided a roadmap for terminating its Flash software for good.  The death will not be swift and quick like it was on Android, as the company does not plan to cease updating and distributing Flash Player until the end of 2020. This will provide enough time for content creators to migrate their existing Flash-based content to newer, more secure platforms like HTML5.

“Several industries and businesses have been built around Flash technology — including gaming, education, and video — and we remain committed to supporting Flash through 2020, as customers and partners put their migration plans into place,” the company said.

Adobe’s Flash software transformed the internet from flat, boring pages with static images and animated GIFs to interactive experiences. For some websites, Flash was even the primary interface, requiring lengthy page loads. But as the spotlight on Flash increased, so did its use by hackers as they studied and exploited every flaw in the code to attack unsuspecting web surfers.

Flash on the internet has essentially become obsolete.

Part of the problem stems from the use of browser plugins, which are separate pieces of software that plug into a web browser. They disrupt the secure environment created by the parent browser, cause browser instability issues, and are highly susceptible to hacking.

To solve this ongoing problem, utilities, services, and content are now pushed into the web code itself as seen with HTML5. Graphics rendering can be handled by WebGL while YouTube playback is enabled using simple web-based code, not a stand-alone player. However, if utilities and services are not served up in web-based “apps,” then they’re likely integrated into the actual browser, eliminating the need for plugins.

That said, HTML5’s maturity has seemingly pushed Adobe into a corner. Flash on the internet has essentially become obsolete. It is a huge, consistent attack vector and the only means of viewing Flash content is through the Flash Player plugin. Browser vendors are moving away from plugins, halting Flash content playback automatically and will eventually block Flash content altogether. With Adobe Flash now pushed into the corner, the only answer is to leave the dance altogether.

Until the end of 2020, Adobe will remain committed to its Flash software. That means dishing out security patches and maintaining its compatibility with web browsers and operating systems. Adobe also plans to add capabilities and features “when needed.” More importantly, Adobe will work to terminate Flash early in “certain geographies” that distribute an unlicensed, outdated version of Flash Player.

“Adobe will also remain at the forefront of leading the development of new web standards and actively participate in their advancement,” the company said. “This includes continuing to contribute to the HTML5 standard and participating in the WebAssembly Community Group.”

Adobe is still in the web-based content creation business despite pulling the plug on Flash. Animate CC is a tool for interactive animations that can be published on multiple platforms including HTML5 Canvas, WebGL, and more. Premier Pro CC is a tool for editing videos that can be played on websites that support the HTML5 standard.