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A Short History of the Long, Slow Death of Adobe Flash Player

Before YouTube thrilled us with “Charlie Bit My Finger” and other viral sensations, there was good old Flash Player with animated clips that kept us pretty happy. You probably lost track of how many times the Dancing Baby video was sent to you by email. You might not even be able to guess how much time you spent on humor sites and forums just scrolling through loads of funny and amusing clips. This was the state of the world before and how greatly that has changed to what it is today – and that’s just a span of a few years.

A web sensation

Anyone with a camera and decent internet speed can capture a funny moment and upload them to video sharing sites such as Dailymotion, YouTube, and Vimeo. Even better, those short clips can be converted to GIFs and shared on social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr. Or, those who are quite adept at capturing spur-of-the-moment activities can use Boomerang for recording and Instagram for preservation. Looking at the content created by these various mediums are how a lot of us spend time on the web these days. But back in the day, we relied on Flash.

Even when HTML5 was on the rise, a lot of big-name companies still preferred to deliver content using Adobe’s proprietary technology because of the limitations posed by the new technology. YouTube even adopted HTML5 but continued its support for Flash until it completely broke up with it in recent years.

A clear rebuke

You could trace the decline of Flash to Steve Jobs. He famously wrote about the deficiencies of Flash and why it couldn’t be included with the iPhone: it’s a security risk, it is a resource hog, and it’s a proprietary technology. Instead, Jobs opted for open-source technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS for Apple products.

Despite Jobs’ rejection, Flash continued on its merry way that is until HTML5 improved so much that Adobe was forced to admit that their competitor was indeed better for creating and deploying content on browsers across mobile devices.

Soon, former big-name clients made the switch. YouTube switched to an HTML5 video player. Chrome disabled Flash completely (but with an option to enable). Facebook bid farewell.

Technological progress will make dinosaurs of once beloved formats like Flash. For now, we can enjoy Flash while we can as big sites such as BBC and NBC still deliver Flash-based content. We just need to make sure that we always have the latest version.

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