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Farewell to Flash

Farewell to Flash

Flash used to be the go-to tool for a generation of artists, animators and web designers, catapulting the early web into an experimental world of movement and interaction. Flash faded away as the web evolved to be accessible and responsive — but with Flash gone, what has been lost?

Back when the web was wilder than it is now, the multimedia program Flash was a legitimate format to build immersive, interactive websites.

By its nature, Flash enabled a period during the early 2000s of extraordinary creativity online. Flash was flexible and it was total, able to support complex, layered animation, branching narratives, user-triggered events, video and audio. It was also possible for not-so-techie designers (like myself) to use. I made client websites in Flash, and I also made online artworks that existed solely to provide intriguing, interactive experiences for users.

Video excerpted from a Flash animation by Julia Stoops

Out with a Whimper

Flash gasped its last breath last month. The decline was long and the reasons were many: It wasn’t responsive, so it couldn’t work well on mobile. And iOS had banned it anyhow, due to security flaws. Flash content also wasn’t accessible for screen readers, and it failed at SEO. These weren’t concerns during Flash’s heyday, but they became unarguable issues as the web evolved.

That era of prolific artistic innovation on the web is over. Sure, websites can still move in cool ways, but the replacement tools of HTML5 and JavaScript haven’t delivered the glorious creativity seen in Flash-built websites.

As I lay a wreath on the grave of Flash, I want to acknowledge that the Ruffle Flash Emulator can display individual old Flash files (but not multiple files that trigger each other), and that the Internet Archive is preserving Flash games and animations! But it’s an archive. It’s a museum. Art doesn’t grow in a museum. It grows in the messiness of exploration and inspiration.

RIP Flash. Your fertile, crazy, exhilarating possibilities are sorely missed.