Adobe has confirmed it will retire the much-maligned Flash platform at the end of 2020, marking the end of an era for web content.

Flash enabled numerous web applications, such as online games, dynamic website designs and educational tools, that simply weren’t possible previously.

However, in recent years it had been regarded as a drain on device resources and battery, while the numerous security flaws had been used by malicious actors to launch cyber attacks and conceal malware.

This has been particularly true of malvertising attacks.

RIP Adobe Flash

In recent years, there has been a concerted drive away from Flash towards open web standards such as HTML5, with numerous browsers, including Chrome and Firefox disabling Flash by default.

Adobe says several businesses are still reliant on the platform and that it would continue to add new features and fix bugs until its retirement. Furthermore it has worked with Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla to ensure a smooth migration.

“Adobe has long played a leadership role in advancing interactivity and creative content – from video, to games and more – on the web,” said the company. “Where we’ve seen a need to push content and interactivity forward, we’ve innovated to meet those needs.

“Where a format didn’t exist, we invented one – such as with Flash and Shockwave. And over time, as the web evolved, these new formats were adopted by the community, in some cases formed the basis for open standards, and became an essential part of the web.

Move to open standards

“But as open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have matured over the past several years, most now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered and have become a viable alternative for content on the web.

“Over time, we’ve seen helper apps evolve to become plugins, and more recently, have seen many of these plugin capabilities get incorporated into open web standards. Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins.

“Given this progress, and in collaboration with several of our technology partners – including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla – Adobe is planning to end-of-life Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats.”

Popularity of Flash has been decreasing. Google says that three years ago, 80 percent of Chrome desktop users visited at least one Flash-enabled site a day, but that figure was now less than 17 percent and falling.

Apple has arguably been Flash’s most vocal and influential critic. When it launched the iPhone in 2007 it did not support Flash because of concerns about performance and battery life. This was seen as a weakness because of the popularity of Flash content and BlackBerry even marketed one of its devices as capable of supporting Flash in response.

However a decade on, Apple could be seen to be on the right side of history.

Quiz: What do you know about cyber security in 2017?

Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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