The Story of Flash

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Adding a video to your homepage can produce a more welcoming and positive first impression, depending on the business. If you want to build a new website, for example with Wiredelta®you probably want to know the best way to adding multimedia content to it. As technology evolves, more programming languages and development tools are becoming available. However, the two best options for adding video content to web pages are HTML5 and WebGL. Ten years ago, this wasn’t the case. Welcome to the story of Flash.
Adobe Flash is a software specifically used for the production of graphics animations and embedded web browser video players. It was also prominent for developing rich internet, desktop, and mobile applications and games. Nonetheless, its usage has decreased at a rapid pace during the last decade, from the most popular multimedia platforms.
With almost 99% penetration among Internet-enabled desktops, it nose-dived to 5.4% of all websites by the end of 2017. By 2011 50% of websites worldwide used Flash in one way or another (original content, ads, and third parties’). By October 2016 this number dropped down to 10%. Still, if Flash were suddenly taken out of business then, approximately 84% of display banners wouldn’t be viewable. But what is the reason behind this change, and what can you do as a website owner? 


How did it all start?

FutureSplash was first released at the end of 1995, and by the time it had two main components:

  • the animator – allowed developers to drag and drop animations around, and embed them on the web,
  • the viewer – had to be downloaded and installed for the animations to work

The software was the first of its kind and gained popularity fast as it became a featured extension of Netscape. Even more, in 1996 Microsoft decided to collaborate with FutureSplash on a similar software to be embedded on MSN.com.
In December 1996, the company was bought by Macromedia and was renamed as Macromedia Flash. Since then, most of the interactive and dynamic elements on websites were developed using Flash. In 2005, Macromedia was acquired by Adobe, giving the world the Adobe Flash we know today.


Previous to all this, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. Two years later he invented the HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Today, HTML is the core markup language of the World Wide Web.
The world was introduced to HTML5 in 2008 when a first draft version of the markup language was launched. HTML5 is an evolved version of the programming language HTML for the structure and presentation of website contents. The idea behind it is improving the functionality of web pages. HTML5 provides better markup (HTML), better style (CSS), and better interactivity (JavaScript). In simpler terms, HTML5 brings order to the web development chaos. It organizes common practices while embracing implementations from various browsers.



How Flash and HTML5 work?

Flash Player is a plugin compatible with most of the well-known desktop platforms, including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Solaris. The plugin runs SWF files, a specific Adobe format for “animated” content. This allows interaction with audio, video and other formats. Flash is compatible with most mobile platforms, such as Android or iOS as a standalone application. This means that it can be used as an app, but it does not support mobile internet browser usage. The software is free, but the plugin needs to be downloaded and installed in order for it to read content created for Flash.
HTML5 however, as mentioned before, is an open programming language. This means that web developers write how they need the content to be displayed on a page. There is no need for creating special files for your animation or downloading extra software for them to work. Also, this means that HTML5 is compatible with every internet browser and operating system regardless of the device used. Not only that, but it also offers an overall improved user experience by dramatically reducing homepages’ loading time.



HTML5 Vs. Flash – Flat down to specifics

There are many reasons Flash’s popularity has been in decline over the years, aside from the better functionality and overall better user experience provided by HTML5. Many big companies understand the versatility of HTML5 compared to the restrictiveness of Flash and have started to choose sides. Steve Jobs released a public letter in 2010 stating that the new iPhone would not support Flash. Some of the reasons behind this decision were security issues and reliability, but the final blow was the appearance of HTML5 as an alternative.
In 2010, Youtube developers have decided to switch to HTML5. Since 2015, all content on Youtube is available in HTML5 and can be streamed without the Flash plugin. Finally, in 2016, Google announced they would stop supporting flash content. The 53rd version of Google’s Chrome browser would disable Flash by default as “This kind of Flash slows you down […] HTML5 is much lighter and faster, and publishers are switching over to speed up page loading and save you more battery life. You (the user) will see an improvement in responsiveness and efficiency for many sites.”


HTML5 and its benefits in the future

Web technologies stay relevant because they evolve and adapt based on expectations. In today’s world, content consumption is constantly increasing and evolving by setting new standards and trends. Therefore, mobile usage is also increasing worldwide and the importance of mobile-friendly websites becomes more and more significant. HTML5 has no restriction when it comes to devices, so it is a logical choice to use it for the creation and display of interactive and dynamic content. We can already see the improvement in regards to the loading time of a website. And given that HTML5 is an ever-changing language much like the languages we speak every day, this one continuously adapts to our needs for better communication. This means that as time passes, it will only become easier to understand, to learn, and to use, providing us with a fast and pleasant experience.



By 2020 Flash will stop being part of the internet altogether and will become part of history. Although it started as a pioneer which revolutionized the practice of dynamic content for an entire generation, like any non-adaptable program, it was replaced by technologies able to evolve and change constantly. Most web developers embraced the change, and soon enough those who didn’t will have no choice but to follow the trend.
Based on all of our research and even more important so, our experience, we are confident when we say that HTML5 is the better choice when it comes to interactive or dynamic content for websites. Especially, as the next transformation of the Internet aims towards standardization and a more semantic structure and performance.
At Wiredelta, we offer a variety of services that can help you build your own HTML5 based web apps to grow your business. You can visit our blog and learn everything you need to know about web development technical terms, new ways to improve your website, how to build your own app, and much more.