Gone In A Flash

August 15th, 2017 - Posted by Jamie Thomson, Managing Director

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There have been many great Flashes. The Flash (geek alert), Flash Gordon (saviour of the universe apparently) and Adobe Flash. Yes that is right, Adobe Flash has been a great for the internet. It made web pages interactive way before their time. Last month, Adobe announced the end of life plan for Flash and even though it is not until 2020 it is now time to make sure you have an implementation plan in place to check and replace your software before then. It takes longer than you think!

Most Web to Print software providers either never used Flash (like RedTie!), have removed Flash from their software or have a plan to. It is important that you talk to your supplier if they have any Flash technology in their software and find out what they are planning to do about moving away from it and when. If you don’t know how to tell if your software uses Flash then a simple test would to be to install a Flash blocker extension for your browser. If you can still use your software once the blocker is enabled then there is a good chance you are in the clear.

The when is really important, how close you are prepared to allow your supplier to get to deadline is mostly to do with how risk averse you are and what is the effect of not having your software functioning. It is not as simple as saying you have until 2020 either. All the major web browser suppliers have released their roadmaps for removing flash support from their browsers. Most are taking a staged approach from now until the 2020 deadline. First they will warn users that Flash support is ending, then they will turn flash support off by default but let users turn it back on (either globally or just for specific websites) and finally Flash support will be removed completely as Adobe also ends support.

Why is this big news?

Flash has been around a long time, in fact Flash 1.0 was released in 1996, an over time it grew in popularity to add interactivity to the web. Google have said that even 3 years ago 80% of Chrome users visited 1 site a day that had some Flash (they don’t mention that a lot of those visits were probably to YouTube, which they own).

That is not the issue for most businesses though. Websites are fairly easy to update to non Flash alternatives. Web applications is where the real difficulty is going to occur. In the early days browser technology just didn't provide the functionality to provide features that web applications needed. Flash was often the go to plugin to solve this and even today there are so many that need Flash installed to actually work.

Basically there are almost 3 years left to update thousands of web applications still in use today. It is a huge task and most people are getting more aware of the risk of running legacy software.

Why kill it off now?

There are many reasons that Flash had to come to an end. First, although it is not solely a Flash problem, is that security wise it is a flawed technology. Its popularity is actually part of its downfall. Finding exploits in Flash was a common way to attack computers and networks. In no way am I saying that all Flash apps are more insecure than their non Flash alternatives. Just that some parts of Flash were and still are susceptible to exploitation.

That's not the reason Flash is in its end of life phase though. Adobe definitely has the skills to fix those exploits. The writing was really on the wall when Apple and Google removed Flash support from their mobile phone browsers. For those that don't know, Flash committed the ultimate mobile phone sin, it was a battery hog. The one part of phones that is stuck in the technology Stone Age, smart phones are getting more powerful by the year but they always fight against the need for power. Anything that drains battery is a big no no so Flash had to go. Not an issue when use of web applications was predominantly computer based, but now so much web traffic is on mobile devices then it has become a huge problem.

Still a problem needs a solution, the final nail in the Flash coffin. HTML5 is the straw that broke the camel's back. Browser technology took a huge leap forward in interactivity and baked it into a standard that all browser developers could implement and all developers could use. So many features of Flash have been implemented in HTML5 (or its close companions, CSS3 and JavaScript) that the benefits of Flash just don't outweigh the downside.

In Conclusion

Flash has been a valuable tool for web application developers. It gets a lot of bad press but it should get a lot of praise for bringing so much functionality to the web. It has just had its time.

Now is the time to audit your software for flash and talk to your suppliers about their plans and timetables to provide non flash versions.

If your Web to Print provider uses flash and doesn’t have a plan, or you don’t want to risk waiting for them to implement that plan then Contact Us to explore migration options from your current system.