We’re all used to ever-changing nature of the tech world. In fact, the only consistent thing about technology is the fact that’s it’s always changing. And in 2017, Adobe announced that Adobe Flash is set to expire by the end of 2020. 

What’s Adobe Flash all about, anyway?

Flash is computer software which allows you to experience media, such as videos, animations, and interactions, on digital platforms like PC, mobile, games, and most importantly, the internet. 

Back in the day, Flash supported up to 75% of media on the web. (That’s a lot.) Downloadable plug-ins helped Adobe Flash run across the internet, keeping interactions, animations, and videos running smoothly. Well, smooth-ish. 

The end of the Flash based eLearning era

Because of its large presence on the web, Flash worked as the #1 learning software behind most eLearning courses. Until around 2016-2017, if you used eLearning, you used Flash based eLearning. But since Adobe’s announcement hit the internet in 2017, most companies are quickly updating their Flash based eLearning to newer software.

Though Flash was amazing for its time, like most older tech, it brought a host of problems along with it. If we had to take an autopsy of Flash, the three main causes of death would be compatibility problems, safety failures, and inefficiency issues. (Three other reasons your Flash based eLearning needs a technology update.)

Compatibility problems

Web browsers don’t have the ability to support Flash, so you have to download the Flash plug-in. On top of the need to keep this plug-in updated to see your Flash content, many mobile devices struggle to support Flash. Broken videos, missing animations, and fuzzy fonts are common problems. Adobe Flash also uses the SWF (small web format) file format, and most browsers had a hard time reading SWF content. This has a negative impact on both accessibility and SEO. (Oh, and Apple refuses to use Flash at all.)

Safety failures

Flash plug-ins (add-ons) allow Flash to work with almost any browser. Unfortunately, frequent bugs in the plug-in software allow hackers to gain access to the web browser memory. From there, the hackers can move to different addresses and even completely take over a computer. In the past, the issue was so bad that Steve Jobs claimed Flash downloads as the number one cause of crashes for Mac computers.

Inefficiency issues

Flash drains vast amounts of battery when playing multimedia. Even more, Flash’s software updates rarely, meaning that multimedia content always has to be created with out-of-date tools, diminishing its quality. 

Why should I care about Flash ending?

You might be thinking, “Flash works well enough for me. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” We get it. If you’re not a techie, all this talk about Flash can be easy to shrug off. Let’s put it this way.

You’ve built yourself a nice house. It looks great, works great, and keeps you warm and cozy. Then you get a notice in the mail. Services will no longer be supporting your area. That means no police. No firefighters. No roads. Water. Electricity. Cell reception. Not even WiFi. You’re alone and cut off from everyone. 

Now, let’s apply this to Flash. 

You’ve built yourself some Flash-based learning. It looks great, works great, and helps you teach your people all the ins-and-outs of your business. Then you get the notice. Services will no longer be supported for Flash. That means no updates. No security fixes. No support, browser plug-ins, or patches. Forget being cut off from the world, you won’t even be able to access any Flash-based eLearning

That sounds like a downer, right? But Adobe’s not leaving us out to dry—there’s hope with a lengthy warning time and an opportunity to move somewhere better.

Adobe’s three-year warning for Flash EOL

Adobe didn’t just drop Flash and leave. In fact, they first announced Flash’s end-of-life (EOL) in 2017. Why the three-year warning? According to Adobe, it’s so you have the time to switch to a different way of getting things done.

In Adobe’s own words, “…industries and businesses have been built around Flash technology–including gaming, education, and video–and we remain committed to supporting Flash through 2020, as customers and partners put their migration plans into place.” They suggest using open format alternatives such as HTML5, WebGL, or WebAssembly.

Won’t Flash get support from somewhere?

It’s easy to hope that Adobe will back down or that some third party will start offering support. But the main reason Adobe is discontinuing Flash is that their partners—Apple, Facebook, Youtube, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla—decided to discontinue Flash as a whole. 

And with this coalition of greats backing out, Flash doesn’t have much hope for continued support, even from a third party. So, if your business uses Flash-based eLearning, it’s time to start migrating your content to something better.

Flash is dead. What now?

Ready for some good news? Flash stepped back because some younger and stronger alternatives have stepped up. These alternatives work better across the board, and they don’t have the same compatibility or safety concerns as Flash. Here are some amazing Flash-alternatives we love at Maestro: 

HTML5

HTML (Hyper-text Markup Language) is essentially the coding language which forms the basis of the internet. But until HTML5 was born, regular HTML couldn’t support multimedia, which is why we needed Flash. But now, HTML5 can fill Flash’s shoes and do a better, safer job. This simply means that you don’t need to download those risky plug-ins anymore. With HTML5, your tech can play videos on its own.

Lottie

Lottie (built by Airbnb) takes things another step forward. With Lottie, designers can create, export, and natively render animations with just After Effects and JSON files—all without needing any help from a software engineer. It works across Android, iOS, React Native, and Windows. 

Greensock

Greensock (or GSAP) could be nestled under HTML5, but it’s cool enough to talk about on its own. GSAP uses HTML5 JavaScript to make all animations silky smooth. And no compatibility issues here—it works with everything

WebGL

WebGL (Web Graphics Library) is a JavaScript API that allows you to render 2D and 3D interactive graphics using the <canvas> tag. Like HTML5, WebGL works in without the use of plug-ins directly in your browser, eliminating many security concerns.

Out with the old, in with the new

Unless you’re a developer, designer, or software engineer, all this stuff about HTML5, JavaScript, and risky plug-ins can sound pretty overwhelming. We get it. But let’s focus on the positive. Because while Adobe Flash is on its way out, better technology for eLearning is on its way in. 

And if the rest of the world is constantly pushing for bigger and better, why shouldn’t you? Don’t let your business and your learning get left behind. Now is the perfect time to get started on a learning refresh. 
And all this tech stuff? With the right learning partner, it’s easier than you think.

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