Part 25 - What is Flash/ActionScript?

Written by Eric Muss-Barnes, 7 January 2019

Back in 2006, the new Internet technology that was all the rage was Macromedia Flash. Flash sites were everywhere. Major corporations were using Flash on their homepages. Photographers were building entire portfolios in Flash. For those of us at Walt Disney Studios, they were building entire games and web applications inside of Flash, and selling monthly memberships, so guests could play these online games. Action Script was a special scripting language, exclusive to Flash, that allowed for all kinds of programming and features to be implemented into the animations. Shortly thereafter, Adobe purchased Flash from Macromedia, and Adobe pushed Flash even harder.

Today, 18 years later, not only has Flash all but vanished, but Adobe has stopped supporting it altogether.


What happened to Flash?

What made it die?

Well, as cool as Flash was, it had a number of huge drawbacks.

1.) It was proprietary to Adobe. It wasn't officially supported as a part of the HTML standard, and it wasn't natively supported by any web browser.

2.) Because it wasn't supported, it required users download a special plug-in for their browser. Adobe was constantly updating this plug-in, which required users to download upgrades all the time.

3.) Action Script was very difficult to learn, was vaguely like JavaScript and C#, but wasn't really based on any other type of language.

4.) Flash was notorious for having memory leaks and causing browsers, and sometimes a whole computer, to crash.

5.) Flash had a lot of issues with hacking and vulnerability and "security fixes" were constantly being released.

6.) Flash websites had to download files into your browser, before it could run. Sites with particularly large Flash plug-ins took a long time to load on a webpage. Sometimes, it could take a minute or two, just to view the content. Users grew impatient with waiting, and would leave the website.

All of those factors contributed to Flash losing popularity and vanishing.

Personally, I never learned much about Flash, because I was well-aware of all of those problems. That is why I always get so skeptical of the "latest and greatest" and the "hip new thing" in Internet technology. Just because something is popular, and immensely successful, doesn't mean it's going to last. Flash turned out to be a novelty, more than anything. People grew bored with the fad. There were too many disadvantages for the users. As a result, the technology slowly began to disappear.

It's a shame to see it go. There were some very creative people doing really impressive things with Flash. Heck, like I said, at Walt Disney Studios, we built an entire business around Flash games. But, when the guests no longer find value in what you are doing, it is time to evolve and move on to something they will appreciate.

And remember, kids, the world owes you nothing... until you create things of value.

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