Do you remember a decade or so ago when websites across the Internet made a transformation from static images and text to be suddenly filled with animation, sounds, and interactivity? Adobe Flash came on the scene and allowed web developers to create these visually engaging experiences. If you don’t recall what these early days of the Internet were, here’s a fun exercise to do: check out the Internet Wayback Machine. Here, you can search for any website and see what it was actually like at any time in the past. For example, check out this website from 2005. It’s quite stunning to see what cutting-edge design looked like just over a decade ago.
The Rise of Flash
After it launched in 1996, Flash quickly became the preferred way for designers to develop and deliver engaging, rich media content. Flash was used by many websites, and particularly those that focused on gaming, education, and video. To access the Flash content on their desktop computers, users installed the free Flash plugin for their browser. With every new Flash update, users would need to download and install the new Flash plugin. This worked well for over a decade but started to become problematic with the rise of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Growing Problems with Flash
Compared to desktop computers, mobile devices use different operating systems (such as Android and iOS) which do not support Flash. At first, this was not a big issue since most people did not visit websites on their phones. However, according to a Pew Research study, currently over three-quarters of Americans own a smartphone, which is double the number from just five years ago. In fact, in November 2016, StatCounter reported that for the first time in history, more people accessed online content from a mobile/tablet device than from desktops and laptops. This meant that if you owned a website that had Flash content, over half of your audience would not be able to view it.
In addition, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Apple Safari have all been blocking Flash content in recent months. Although they will allow Flash content to be accessed through 2020, users typically have to override the default setting – which is to disable or block the Flash content. In July 2017, Adobe announced the end of Flash support by stating they will “stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020.”
What Will Replace Flash?
While some owners of Flash-enabled content may view this need for change with dismay, it can also be seen as a great opportunity. Phasing out Flash does not mean that websites will not have engaging, interactive content. On the contrary, new formats such as HTML5 allow content developers to create more robust, secure, and dynamic experiences. Here are a few examples of how websites will improve after Flash:
- Access Content on Any Device: HTML5 is a modern coding language that can be accessed on any device – desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, and more.
- Always a Great Layout: Responsive Design can be incorporated, which means that the layout will change according to the size of the screen and its orientation (portrait or landscape).
- More Secure: HTML5 is inherently a more secure format than Flash.
- More Options: There is greater control and more options for video playback, sharing, and more.
The end of the Flash era is a good time to look back and appreciate all of the advances it brought to the online experience and to look forward to the new experiences being developed now and in the future. Ingenuiti is looking forward to the beginning of what’s next.