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Gone in a Flash: What Your Business Needs to Know About the End of Adobe Flash

Published:

Adobe Flash
Image credit: monticello / Shutterstock.com

Executive Summary

  • On December 31st 2020, it was the end of the road for Adobe Flash. With countless websites built with Flash elements, how will this impact the web?
  • In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore why Flash is going end-of-life, what it means for businesses, and why you shouldn’t ignore it if you care about cybersecurity.

Introduction

If you’re old enough to remember a time before social media, you’ll probably also remember Adobe Flash.

From simple browser games to full-blown websites, Flash was an effective way to add interactivity to web-based experiences before HTML came of age. In fact, throughout the noughties, Flash was essentially the only way to create truly engaging experiences in browsers.

In 2021, however, things have moved on – and it’s time to say our (not so) fond farewells. As of December 31st 2020, Flash is no longer supported by any major browser or even Adobe themselves – it’s dead in the water.

Let’s find out what the deprecation of Flash across all major browsers might mean for your business.

What is (or was) Adobe Flash?

Let’s start with a short history lesson for those lucky few who are unfamiliar with Flash technology.

Back in the earliest days of the web, many of us were discovering what a great tool it could be for simply… well… wasting time.

That led to the production of a lot of web-based videos, animations, and browser games which were ideal for killing a few minutes here and there. The common thread is that these almost exclusively ran on Adobe Flash Player, a third-party plugin for browsers which enabled advanced multimedia features.

At the time, HTML (the language in which most websites are written) was still developing and had almost no way of supporting audio-visual experiences without a bit of help. Between 2000 and 2010, this help came in the form of Flash. During that decade, many businesses adopted Flash for interactive websites. These weren’t scalable and were unsupported on mobile, but, because most people used desktop computers, they did the job.

Fast-forward to the 2010s and we’re using the web on more devices than ever. It didn’t take long for folks to notice that Flash experiences were simply outdated – and were flat-out unsupported on mobile (especially by Apple). This led to the announcement in 2017 that Flash was being deprecated, and then the eventual discontinuation of Flash on December 31st 2020.

It was fun while it last, but it’s definitely time to move on.

Why is Flash going end-of-life?

For all the things Flash did right, there were plenty more that it did wrong.

While it was useful in the sense that it gave early web designers the opportunity to do things that HTML simply couldn’t match, it came with its fair share of problems.

Here are the core reasons that Flash is no longer supported by Adobe or the major browsers (including Chrome and Firefox) as of January 2021:

  1. All of its functionality has now been replaced by better, more compatible, and more secure web technologies such as HTML 5.
  2. It has always been a security risk, with many experts recommending not to install Flash Player at all. World-renowned Apple founder Steve Jobs famously said in 2010 that the iPhone, iPad, and iPod would never support Flash for security reasons – and that remains true to this day.
  3. Because Flash was an embedded object, it always required third-party intervention of some sort. This meant that users need to install Flash Player at the very least, and that the browser must also grant permission for it to run. In many cases, modern browsers would block Flash elements by default for security reasons.
  4. The closed-shop concept of Flash goes against the principles of the open web, whereby all devices should be able to interpret and display any content. When the web was going responsive, Flash was still awkwardly stuck in the past.

Even at the height of its popularity, Flash was always something of a clunky experience – especially if you tried to use it on mobile.

Its successor, HTML 5, offers all the benefits of Adobe Flash in a much more streamlined way. Even better, it’s supported by practically any web-enabled device you can imagine – even your fridge!

(Yep, it’s true).

Flash end-of-life and your business – what you need to know

So, what does this technology’s journey into the great beyond mean for businesses and their cybersecurity?

The first thing to note is that Flash won’t simply stop working overnight.

Instead, if you still use it anywhere within your business, you’ll need to manually run it (or grant it permission to run), and it won’t be installed by default on any browser. There aren’t many examples of Flash still being actively used, but there are a few, such as certain HPE server software. In these cases, it’s up to the vendor to update their software.

As you might expect, continuing to have the Flash Player installed on your system may present a cybersecurity threat.

As we’ve covered before, products going end-of-life means that certain security exploits may be found by nefarious types and never patched up, leaving systems vulnerable. Luckily, if you’re running Windows machines, Flash will shortly be removed automatically via Windows Update (though you can trigger this update manually if you’d rather have it done sooner).

The final piece of advice to businesses around the Flash deprecation is to do a quick audit of your website and other web-based portals or experiences you may share with clients. Ensure that you’re not relying on Flash for anything essential, and, if so, take steps to replace it with a safer, more compatible option such as HTML 5.

Does your business need a cybersecurity tune-up?

Here at Get Support, we’re right behind the efforts to make the web a safer, more productive place for everyone. The deprecation of Flash is a big step towards levelling the playing field and eliminating the chances of cyberthreats.

Talking of cyberthreats, if your business is starting 2021 without a full IT security health-check, we’re here to help.

We can help advise on secure software choices, or even get you up and running with cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies.

Want to take your business into a safe, more cybersecure 2021? Get in touch today on 01865 59 4000 or just fill in the contact form below.

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