Flash was – and still is – the most loved and hated software platform ever created. On the one hand, it powered countless browser games that made our childhood better. On the other, it was filled with bugs and its security… well, let’s just say it was far from ideal. Now, in turn, comes the end of an era: Adobe will stop distributing and supporting Flash Player with the end of this year.
Let’s take a brief look at the rise and fall of Flash Player over the years.
In the early years of the internet, it was mostly static. A company called FutureWave Software developed a vector-based drawing software called SmartSketch – and added frame-by-frame capabilities to it. They released FutureSplash Animator on Windows and Macintosh in 1995, a piece of software that would later become Flash.
The small size of the FutureSplash Viewer made it perfect for downloading (the internet was much, much slower then than it is now, so even a small difference in size mattered), and as such, the perfect target for acquisition by Macromedia, a company building web development software. The product was renamed Macromedia Flash and integrated with other tools such as Dreamweaver. Flash became a popular platform not only for animated GUI elements and banners but also for games.
Adobe Systems, the maker of Acrobat and Photoshop, acquired Macromedia in 2005.
The rise of the browser game
Browser games were around before Flash was released – most of them were written in Java. The emergence of Flash, with its small download size and great potential for optimization, made it the perfect choice for browser game development. The first Flash games were remakes of classics like Frogger and Pac-Man. Later, several classic gaming portals like Newgrounds and Miniclip and paid gaming platforms emerged – to great success. While Miniclip and their likes offered countless hours of gaming to the youth, the JackpotCity was – and still is – aimed at adult audiences with slot machines, table games, and similar titles. Many of the games released in the early years of JackpotCity are still available in their original Flash version. In contrast, many others have been remade to better fit the realities of today.
“Thoughts on Flash”
In their early years, smartphones didn’t work well with Flash – and Apple, the most sought-after smartphone at the time, didn’t show it much love either. Steve Jobs considered Flash a bug-ridden, insecure, and overly bloated platform – and expressed his opinion about it in a famous open letter published in April 2010. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of the tech scene agreed with him. At the same time, Apple banished “Packager for iPhone” from the App Store for a few months. But the deed was done: the next year, Adobe announced that it was ceasing development of the Flash Player plugin on mobile devices.
End of Life
Adobe Flash will officially die on December 31, 2020. Its place was already taken, in most areas, by more open web standards such as WebGL and HTML5, all of them viable alternatives to Flash, often with functions that go way beyond it. On January 1st, Flash Player will no longer be available for download from Adobe’s website. Adobe no longer recommends running Flash content after the EOL date.
What about the games?
The browser game portals of the late 1990s and early 2000s had countless great games – it would be a waste for them to just disappear. Luckily, enthusiasts won’t let them be forgotten. There are several projects that aim to archive the content of some of them – the Flash Game Archive, for example, has archived more than 1,500 titles already archived and countless more left to process, preserving Flash games for future generations. The FGA archive can be downloaded with all games to be played free of charge.