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The Rise and Fall of Flash
(8/19/2014 3:01:00 PM)

Flash is a multimedia and software framework that specializes in creating vector graphic animations, games, and applications. These applications are executed using the proprietary “Adobe Flash Player”. Flash was originally developed in the mid 90s and was released to the general public in 1997. Macromedia, the original developer of Flash (now owned by Adobe), provided developers with the Flash Integrated Development Environment. This allowed anyone to develop Flash applications, which greatly aided the software’s wild rise in popularity. As time went on and software evolved, Flash incorporated a new object oriented scripting language in its fifth release. This scripting language (called Action Script) dramatically increased the capability of Flash and the quality of the programs developed with it. The Advent of the Action Script further increased the software’s popularity, and drew the attention of game developers all over the country. Flash proved to be the idea environment in which to develop casual, web based games that utilized vector graphics. The explosion of fun, easy to play, internet-based games lead to the almost universal use of Macromedia’s Flash software. Unfortunately, Macromedia’s rapid rise to fame was quelled by the inception of the internet search engine. Websites like Google, Yahoo, and MSN made it easy for users to find any kind of web content imaginable. Search engines provide search results by looking at the source of individual web pages. In this way, search engines can gauge what kind of content the website provides and associates it with certain search terms. However, search engines at this time couldn’t read source code for Flash applications, leading Flash-heavy sites to fare poorly with search engines. Website developers were disillusioned by this development and Flash lost a large portion of its user base as a result. This left Macromedia reeling financially, until 2005 when they were bought by Adobe Systems. Adobe sought to reinvent and reestablish Flash as a medium. Flash enjoyed a revitalization, and an even wider install base. In 2007, Adobes successfully ported Flash to mobile devices. However, all was not well for Flash, the latest innovation from Apple, the iPhone, did not support Flash. Additionally, due to the closed nature of ios, future development of a Flash framework for the platform would be impossible without special help from Apple. Flash did however enjoy some success in ios’ competitor: Android. The Open Source mobile operating system was only too happy to accommodate one of the most widely used pieces of software in the world. But by this time, Adobe had some very competent competitors, not the least of which being HTML 5. Pressure from large developers and companies (including Apple) drove the popularity of HTML 5 and led to a drop in the use of Flash. In 2011, Adobe announced that the install base for Flash as approximately 99% of all desktop and laptop computers. However, it was that same year that Adobe announced that they were completely dropping support for Flash on mobile devices. The battle was over, HTML 5 had won the battle for the mobile market. But that wasn’t the end of Flash’s troubles. Microsoft’s new operating system: “Windows 8” would offer only limited support for Flash player. As such, web developers have been steadily moving away from Flash. The software has largely become a relic of days past, what with the advent of HTML 5, which is supported across all platforms, making application development and deployment exceedingly easy. The future is uncertain for Flash, Flash based applications are becoming rarer and rarer as more and more platforms and environments alienate the software. Flash had a good run, but nothing lasts forever.

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