Adobe to pull plug on Flash, ending an era

Adobe’s Flash, a once-ubiquitous technology used to power most of the media content found online, will be retired at the end of 2020, the software company has announced.

Adobe, along with partners Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Mozilla, said support for Flash will decline across the Internet in phases over the next three years.

After 2020, Adobe will stop releasing updates for Flash and web browsers will no longer support it. The companies are encouraging developers to migrate their software onto modern programming standards.

Profound impact

“Few technologies have had such a profound and positive impact in the internet era,” said Govind Balakrishnan, vice president of product development for Adobe Creative Cloud.

Created more than 20 years ago, Flash was once the preferred software used by developers to create games, video players and applications capable of running on multiple web browsers. When Adobe acquired Flash in its 2005 purchase of Macromedia, the technology was on more than 98% of personal computers connected to the web, Macromedia said at the time.

Waning popularity

But Flash’s popularity began to wane after Apple’s decision not to support it on the iPhone. In a public letter in 2010, late Apple CEO Steve Jobs criticized Flash’s reliability, security and performance. Since then, other technologies like HTML5 have emerged as alternatives to Flash.

On Google’s Chrome, the most popular web browser, Flash’s usage has already fallen drastically. In 2014, Flash was used each day by 80% of desktop users. That number is now at 17% “and continues to decline,” Google said in a blog post.

“This trend reveals that sites are migrating to open web technologies, which are faster and more power-efficient than Flash,” Google said. “They’re also more secure.”

Flash, however, remains in use among some online gamers. Adobe said it will work with Facebook as well as Unity Technologies and Epic Games to help developers migrate their games.

Adobe said it does not expect Flash’s end to have an impact on its bottom line. “In fact, we think the opportunity for Adobe is greater in a post-Flash world,” Balakrishnan said.