One bad thing about the death of Flash

Adobe Flash is only mostly dead. That means it’s slightly alive. But the death of Flash is nigh. At least if you consider 2020 “nigh”. By and large, this is celebrated. Flash is notoriously riddled with vulnerabilities, it wrecks accessibility, etc. But losing Flash is still a little bit sad.

Not just because it pioneered interactive web content, as the Tech Crunch article above notes. But I think about all of the games and silly websites that will become unusable. Major projects will be converted to HTML 5. Sites that are mostly-video (I’m thinking Homestar Runner in particular) may end up as a recorded video that can be watched, but not interacted with.

But what about all of the little one-off sites? How much time did I spend in college playing miniputt.swf instead of studying for finals? (Spoiler alert: a lot) How many little educational games have been created that won’t get recreated?

Maybe the lost sites will be replaced by new projects. But it’s a concern we face with every file format: what happens when it’s no longer supported? We have centuries of printed records that can be analyzed by researchers. Centuries from now, will that be true of our digital artifacts?

This is an argument for using open formats instead of proprietary. But even that is no guarantee of future durability. An open format isn’t very helpful if no software implements it. I’m older than the JPEG and GIF standards. Will I outlive them, too? In the not-too-distant future, there may be a niche market for software that implements ancient technology for the purposes of historical preservation.

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