Adobe Flash receives its final update before it goes bang
Adobe Flash has received its final update ahead of a complete shutdown at the end of the year. The stalwart runtime has been instrumental in the growth of the world wide web, and the wider internet, but as technology has moved on, the Adobe runtime has become bloated and slow by today’s standards. It has also been increasingly unstable from a security point of view with a myriad of security patches being released for it every month, as more and more exploits are uncovered.
Adobe Flash hasn’t been supported for mobile devices since 2011 and has been gradually removed from desktop browsers over the past several years, following an agreement between the big tech companies and Adobe. All, that is, except Apple, which has never supported Flash – in fact, Steve Jobs’ hostility towards it was legendary. For those too young to remember—Adobe Flash changed everything. The Internet of the 1990s was one of static pages made up of text and the odd low-end photo. The Flash player and runtime brought users animation, sound, video, games – all in a package that rendered perfectly in the browser, without interfering with the surrounding HTML.
It was clunky. It was unreliable at times. But its part in driving forward the look, and the progress of our online lives should never be underestimated. Back at the start of the dot.com bubble, companies like Moonfruit offered WYSIWYG websites, built entirely in Flash. Moonfruit migrated to HTML5 in 2016, reflecting the direction of travel. The web was, by this stage, so much faster than Adobe Flash had gone from being its enabler to being its millstone. Nevertheless, with hundreds of thousands of instances of Flash content still active and the number of zero-day vulnerabilities sky-rocketing, it was decided in 2017 that Adobe would have to be phased out slowly, rather than being shut off straight away. Since then, browsers have slowly begun to restrict access to Flash content. Even Google Chrome, which had skin in the game (Google’s ads business still relied heavily on Flash content at the time) began the process which finishes today.
In a note in the final release notes, Adobe said: “We want to take a moment to thank all of our customers and developers who have used and created amazing Flash Player content over the last two decades. We are proud that Flash had a crucial role in evolving web content across animation, interactivity, audio, and video. We are excited to help lead the next era of digital experiences.”
Adobe has confirmed that Flash reaches EoL (end-of-life) on the last day of 2020. From January 12th, 2021, it will actively block the plug-in from running content at the server-side. It has been confirmed that failure to accept today’s update won’t make a difference – the self-destruct payload has been included in the code for months already. Adobe has recommended that Flash Player should be uninstalled from users’ systems. This is reinforced by stronger on-screen warnings in today’s release. Keeping it installed won’t harm your computer, but it could still leave some open security vulnerabilities that haven’t been discovered yet. The only exception is for users in China who will still receive updates to their localized version of Flash. Meanwhile, the company has confirmed that it will continue to concentrate on contributions to the development of the HTML5 standard, and the Adobe AIR platform which is unaffected by the closure.
And so farewell, Abobe Flash. Your time had come and gone—but without you, we wouldn’t be where we are now, and for that, we salute you.