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Flash is dead, long live Flash!

30. April 2019

Flash today, gone tomorrow

With the demise of Adobe Flash, the end of an era is upon us. An era of crashed online games and interrupted videos, true, but also an era that enabled having those games and videos online in the first place. Even the technophobes among us will likely know something about Flash – and likely won’t mourn its passing for the very reasons why they are familiar with it. Nevertheless, Flash has indisputably earned its spot in Internet history.

Anyone who has played an online game or a Youtube video has surely been subjected to a popup announcing that Flash has crashed and your browser must be refreshed. The criticisms are legion: security vulnerabilities, draining mobile phone batteries, undependable performance…the list goes on. As far back as 2010, Steve Jobs published an open letter announcing he was banning Flash from Apple devices. The reasons Jobs cited then – unreliability, lack of compatibility with mobile devices, design that was suited to 1990s-era technology and hadn’t kept up with the times – are all the more true today than they were then. With numerous other, more dependable technologies now available, perhaps the biggest surprise is that the end is only at hand now rather than several years ago.

But for all its imperfections, Flash was a trailblazing product that earned its place in Internet history.  Introduced in January 1996 – the Bronze Age of the world wide web – it was among the first multimedia tools available to the general public, and was revolutionary in its size (for easy downloading) and versatility at the time. One of the key strengths of plugin based technology, such as Flash, was that it worked seamlessely in all browsers without needing any special compliance script for each browser. If Flash hasn’t kept up with the march of technology since then, it was a giant step along the way.

What are your memories of Flash? Good, bad or both? Your first time streaming music or video? A crash course in removing an old version of a program so you could upload the new one (lest we forget, you used to have to do that with Flash!)? My own is playing Forge of Empires on Facebook and finding that dreaded error message announcing that Flash had crashed, and the game along with it. Please contact us with your memories!

 

What to do with your Flash content now

Progress is good for us all, but it’s not always easy. What do you need to do to ensure everything runs smoothly as Flash passes into Internet history? It depends on what you do and which tools you use. Here’s an overview of how to avoid any major troubles.

·         You may not need to do anything: If you’re only concerned about using programs that use or used Flash, you most likely won’t experience any interruption in service. Many of the capabilities initially enabled by Flash now come standard with web browsers. In fact, most of the websites you visit have probably already phased Flash out. For example, Google Chrome estimated two years ago that only 17% of its users on any given day visited a site that used Flash. By some estimates, it may now be as low as 5%.

·         If you’re a developer of programs that use Flash: You have several migration options. For most programs, the best option is to convert Flash to HTML5, which is already supported by all major browsers with no plug-ins necessary. Unlike Flash, HTML5 cannot be used on its own for animation or interactivity, but CSS3 and JavaScript are suitable supplements for those functions. For a detailed description of the differences between Flash and HTML5, see here.

·         How to convert Adobe Flash content to HTML5: Assuming you own the source files to your programs, the first thing to do is change your publish settings from Flash to HTML5.

  • You can do that with IMC Content Studio, our versatile authoring software.
  • IMC can also help you with building or updating a responsive data framework. Contact us for more information, or watch the free webinar on IMC’s Content Studio.
  • Most of the action scripting in Flash can be mimicked via Javascript so you don’t lose key functionality.
  • Lastly, you don’t have to sacrifice the Flash experience, if that’s your goal and target audience. Our front-end developers have experience working some of the top-notch Canvas and SVG libraries so that we can produce the same user experience without needing any extra plugins.

Flash is dead

·         If you use a tool that doesn’t work with HTML: It’s time to find a new one! Our experts can help out with identifying the right tool for your needs, and with getting you up to speed on tools like Adobe Captivate, Lectora, Evolve, and others.

·         If you don’t own the source files: If you’re using third-party content that still uses Flash, it’s time to either upgrade that content or replace it. Any supplier that’s still in business will almost certainly have updated content available.

·         Still not sure? Our consultants can review your existing content for viability, and provide for converting to HTML5 or even redesigning it if you see fit.

Naturally, it’s not that simple: once your migration is done, it’s quality testing time.

·         Test-run your programs in a browser that has Flash disabled: If everything works properly, this means they’re already fully compatible with HTML5. Congratulations, you’re done. If not, then it’s time to…

·         Upgrade your software applications: Many of the applications used for creating e-learning solutions already have updates available for using HTML5 instead of Flash. If in doubt, contact your supplier to confirm that they have the appropriate update available. Chances are they do: remember, Flash has already been on the way out the door for quite some time!

·         Make sure everything looks right: If you do need to upgrade or change your software, it may change how your courses work or look. Once you have completed the upgrade, test your courses thoroughly and make any necessary changes. It’s never a bad idea to consider updating your layout anyway.

·         Security requirements: One reason why Flash has been losing popularity for years is its weak record on security. The current editions of most web browsers have security standards that Flash doesn’t meet. If you have concerns about people viewing your site via a legacy browser that still uses Flash (let’s face it, some people never upgrade!), we can help you ensure a smooth transition through that challenge as well. At IMC, we’ve worked with many large finance institutions and governmental agencies with stringent security requirements. We’ll help make sure even your most stubborn viewers won’t suffer a lapse in service.

The final curtain for Flash won’t come until late 2020, so you’ve got time for a smooth transition. But now is the time to get to work on that transition.