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RIP_Flash

In the computing community, there’s this whole class of what I like to call “zombie tech.” It’s tech that everybody agrees is outdated, crusty, full of security holes, and just a clumsy mess that we should have fixed a long time ago. Everybody agrees that it must go now, this instant. But it never goes away, because it’s still too useful, and we don’t really have a replacement.

Javascript is one. COBOL is another one, may Flying Spaghetti Monster preserve us all. For the longest time, BASIC was one, before Visual Basic was visited upon us and we all decided we had to live with it. PHP, the current technology driving half the web, is coming down with a bad case of this.

The War on Flash

Ever has it been so with a platform that every gamer is familiar with: Flash! We’ve been hearing this for 20 years now:

Check out this article from October 29, 2000 – Bill Clinton was still president! – on how bad Flash is:

> “About 99% of the time, the presence of Flash on a website constitutes a usability disease. Although there are rare occurrences of good Flash design (it even adds value on occasion), the use of Flash typically lowers usability. In most cases, we would be better off if these multimedia objects were removed. Flash tends to degrade websites for three reasons: it encourages design abuse, it breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction principles, and it distracts attention from the site’s core value.”

What is the tech community’s problem with Flash, anyway! Did Flash beat you up when you were a kid and take your lunch money? Did it steal your girlfriend? This is like watching Republicans rage-choke about Sesame Street every two years. Relax, they’re just puppets, they can’t hurt you!

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So anyway, Flash, this completely innocent technology that never asked to be in this position in the first place, may finally croak soon. That’s because 2020 is the year that Adobe, its current owner, vows to finally stop supporting Flash itself. However, SWFTools exists, as does other open source versions of Flash like OpenFL. You can’t truly kill a platform once it’s gone open source. I have the source code downloaded and stored on floppies myself; torture me all you want, I’m not giving them up.

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The World Needs One “Write-Once / Run-Anywhere” Platform

Apple tried to kill Flash. Microsoft tried to kill Flash. Google tried to kill Flash. HTML5 was supposed to kill Flash. Ajax was supposed to kill Flash. Java was supposed to kill Flash. They all failed.

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Let me tell you what may really finally kill Flash: Unity! The whole point with Unity is to be a platform that can run anywhere, which so far is a job Flash has done, and yet be simple enough to program games in, which Flash has also done.

See, Flash is nothing but a variation of Javascript called Ecmascript, combined with a graphics format called “SVG” (scalable vector graphics). There’s some glue holding together in back, that’s it. Originally it started out last century as “Shockwave Flash” before Adobe bought it, and in typical Adobe fashion, they stared at it for 20 years trying to figure out how to make money from it before discarding it.

We’ve been using Flash for 20 years because it just came in too handy. “Write-once / run-anywhere” is actually the oldest joke in technology because it is so often attempted and failed, but the most successful attempts at a unifying programming platform tend to stick. Java, Ajax, and HTML5 all come oooooh so close… “Close” never counts in tech. In technology, the cheap, ugly, disgusting solution that is robust will beat everything else to a bloody pulp, every time.

Unity is going to take Flash’s place. Mark my words, the second, the split second that Flash is officially dead, everybody will switch to crying about Unity for another 20 years, while continuing to use it.

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Flash’s 9000th Funeral

So we are gathered here together… again… for realies this time… to mourn the passing of:

Kongregate – Probably the best gaming platform on the web. Everybody still mouses over there to catch up on the 1000th tower defense game or the latest idle clicker.

NewGrounds – Goodbye to that glorious cesspool, the hellspawn of so many toxic fandoms, but also the showcase of cutting-edge web tech in its day. Can we even count the classic memes that first appeared on NewGrounds? Numa Numa Kid, Star Wars Kid, Charlie the Unicorn. The list goes on and on.

OneMoreLevel – What will you do now for “your daily loss of productivity?” I dunno, come here, I guess.

Orisinal Morning Sunshine – This one hurts to lose, despite having a name that sounds like a prescription mouthwash. Ferry Haim is this cool guy who did all this awesome stuff. Every game on there is a minor masterpiece, all of it relaxing, cute, and kid-friendly. Orisinal was the first website I introduced my kids to as soon as they could work a mouse in their chubby toddler fingers.

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[Adult Swim Games] – Oh yeah, forgot this one, didn’t you? To be fair, they only host a handful of games there.

Armor Games – Surely a household name to anyone with even passing familiarity with online gaming. Many of their Flash classics have gone on to other platforms, including the occasional one we’ve reviewed. They also gave the mobile platform its behemoth, Kingdom Rush.

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Pogo.com – Remember when you could jump on a four-letter domain and ride it for two decades? Pepperidge Farm remembers! This is the site that PopCap games went to retire on.

HomeStarRunner.com – A whole genre of web-based fiction here, along with games like Stinkoman. Which just released episode 10.

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Your Head A Splode!

Yeah, look, there’s obviously no way Flash is going away. Google Chrome will quit even running the plugin, but Flash has clawed its way out of deeper graves than that. It turns out that Chrome simply replaced the plugin with its own built-in Flash, which you have to enable with this trick. So much for “Chrome stopped running Flash.” This much web history doesn’t just go “poof” as long as the Internet Archive lives and draws breath. They’ve got archives there for game systems that died before most of us were born. Flash will do just fine.

We’ll see you next time Flash gets a funeral. Which might be any day now. In fact, being the holidays, a revisit to some of the greatest games of Adobe Flash in part II of this post might even be a good…