The “Death” of Adobe Flash and My Grandad’s Ballsack

Everything is dead. Flash is dead, Google+ is dead, Facebook’s dead. If there’s one thing the tech community loves, it’s a good bit of death (particularly when it comes to writing article headlines). Whether it’s the decline of Sony or Facebook’s falling IPO, us techies can’t wait to rush on ahead and declare them deceased. We’re like Harold Shipman parked on double yellows.

A recent example of this was the removal of Adobe Flash from the majority of smart phones and tablets. Ok, not recent, fairly recent. Fine, not fairly recent, ages ago. (If I’m perfectly honest I meant to write this post months ago when it was still relevant and just never got around to it. Happy now?!)

Anyway as I was saying, in 2007 for reasons outlined by Steve Jobs, Apple refused to include Flash Player in its brushed aluminum, round-cornered utopia. Then last year Google followed suit and announced it would no longer be including Flash on Android. Instead, both of these organisations opted for a greater reliance on HTML5 and Javascript, leading to Adobe’s official announcement that they would be discontinuing the development of Flash for mobile devices.

Now, while this post could very easily become a comparative pissing contest between HTML5 and Flash, or just as easily an examination of Apple’s BDSM relationship with Adobe, those topics have been covered ad infinitum by other, much better bloggers than me.

Instead the purpose of this article is purely to focus on how we have (and how we should have) reacted to the news of Flash’s not so sudden decline.

So, what exactly was our reaction then? Well overall it was one of elation. One of unfounded joy that the monster was “dead” and a newer monster was soon to take its place, a sexier monster, without the need for additional web-based plugins.

Even worse than the cries of joy were the even louder shouts of “I told you so” from bloated Apple fanboys looking to tell us how “Steve Jobs was right”, without the slightest consideration for the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But should we be celebrating? Should the introduction of a newer, better technology, call for a complete undermining and ridicule of the old? Flash (as we know it) has been with us for over 16 years. Through the golden age of the internet’s development, it provided us with animation, interactivity, streaming video and live support, not to mention an entire genre of casual gaming.

So regardless of how “in” it might be to ridicule Flash and to downplay its importance to “little more than banner advertising”, I believe that we’ll never be able to overstate its impact on the modern web. There was a time barely 5 years ago when Flash Player was used across 95% of the world’s largest websites. From YouTube videos to Facebook games, we owe it all to Flash. But it is not just Flash’s impact upon the web that we should respect. As a technology in its own right Flash has created an entire industry of employment and skills. From web developers, to animators, even games designers, Flash has provided millions of hours of employment, training and ultimately enjoyment.

So when it comes to finally putting Flash to rest (and even I would admit that such a time is drawing near) it shouldn’t be done with hatred and sneers, but with a quiet respect reserved only for the most influential and world altering of technologies. And not just out of respect for its creators, but also for the efforts of its various users and developers. For the billions of hours they spent designing, coding and testing … not to mention working with more layers than you’d find on my Granddad’s ballsack.

So next time some headline seeking journalist jumps on the latest “death” within the world of tech, take a moment to consider what we’ve lost.

Alex Warren
Alex Warren
Miserablist, whiskey-drinker, and general tinpot shambles. Alex Warren has a weary pessimism for all things media, politics and tech.