The end of Flash. Goodbye to the technology that changed the web

The end of Flash

Those of us interested in technology have seen countless products and services pass by. Some came to eat the world and ended up disappearing without pain or glory. Others had humble beginnings, but grew to become essential. At least, until another product or service replaced it.

It is the case of Flash, the technology that gave movement to the web and whose support ended with the last day of the year 2020.

The beginning and the end of the Flash

Curiously, the birth and death of Flash are related to Apple. It all started when Charlie Jackson, the organizer of a Macintosh user group, met Jonathan Gay. Charlie wanted to develop software for Apple computers, and Jonathan had been making programs for the platform since high school. Together with a third partner, Michelle Welsh, who would take care of marketing, they founded a company called FutureWave software. This was in 1993.

The first product was SmartSketch, a graphics editor for the Mac optimized for use with optical pencil. The software tried to compensate for the less natural feel of a digital pen by combining quick, easy-to-use shortcuts with a simple user interface.

In market tests many users noted that SmartSketch could be a useful tool for animations and rotoscopy. That's why the developers added basic animation capabilities to it.

Because software development often takes time, it often happens that when a product is ready, users no longer want it. This is what happened with SmartSketch. The stylus had become a museum piece.

Looking for a new market, the company managers saw that lThe only tool available to developers on the fledgling World Wide Web were word processors. To change that, they modified SmartSketch its animation components and They transformed it into a web design tool by the name of FutureSplash. We are in the year 1995

The focus on the web

FutureSplash had two components:

  • Future Splash Animator: With this component designers could design animations on a basic timeline, and add a bit of interactivity to it. It was actually a frame-by-frame animation tool, with drawing tools, a friendly user interface, and allowing users to drag and drop animations.
  • Future Splash Viewer: For the two browsers of the time; Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator could show the files created by Animator needed to download this component on your computer.

Since there was no competition, everything went well for the new product. Netscape added Viewer to its list of featured extensions, and Microsoft asked developers to create a built-in player for, Internet Explorer's default home page. His idea was to create something like a TV experience in a section of his page.

If you can't beat them, buy them

FutureWave's success did not go unnoticed, and a company called Macromedia, which had its own web player called Shockwave, decided to buy the program. Seeking to make the name of his acquisition more catchy, he shortened it to FlasH (Future Splash)

With the support of Macromedia, Flash would become an essential part of the web (Its use is justified or not). FutureSplash could add buttons with limited functionality, but thanks to its new owner, Flash was supplemented with a new programming language (a close relative of JavaScript called ActionScript.

Using ActionScript, programmers could create advanced interactivity to Flash animations by turning them into complete websites. The millennium was auspicious for this software. None of us knew that ten years later the decline would begin.

There was never an official tool for developing Flash animations on Linux.  If there were projects like Haxe that allowed compiling code written in ActionScript. Searching in Google I see that some talk about the possibility of using Eclipse as a development environment together with two adobe tools, The sdk Flex (now in the hands of the Apache Foundation) and Adobe Air (A rich application execution environment from Intenret) that stopped having version for Linux.

In the next article we will talk about Adobe, the neglect of Linux users and how Steve Jobs avenged us.



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