Flash Player Now Disabled

Starting 16 January 2021, Flash Player is officially dead and any current installations will block the playing of any Flash content. Adobe ceased to support Adobe Flash Player as of 31 December 2020 and all download pages from their website have been taken down.

Why is this happening?

Adobe Flash Player is a legacy multi-media content application that can be embedded into web browsers using a plugin in the early days of the internet. There were various incarnations of it, notably from the Macromedia corporate which was acquired by Adobe in 2005 and added to its Creative Suite. It became the dominant platform for multi-media content on the web following YouTube’s adoption of it for displaying videos on their website. At the time there were few technologies available to provide multi-media content and the current HTML 5 standards had not yet been invented.

With the invention of the iPhone in 2007, and Steve Jobs aversion to the platform, the demise of Flash was marked. You can read Steve Jobs comments on the platform here. By 2011 Mac OS X didn’t support Flash natively and you had to manually install it from the web. Windows also didn’t natively support Flash and had to be installed manually (a task I remember well from the days of Windows 95/98/XP).

Flash was also vulnerable to a number of cyber attack vectors and Adobe were continually issuing patches. In 2016 Apple started to block installs of Flash through its Safari web browser. However, Windows still allowed the platform to be installed.

In 2015 Facebook’s head of Security called for the retirement of the platform and Mozilla (developers of the Firefox browser) disabled the platform by default. The BBC ran a story on how Facebook was moving away from the Flash platform and that they had moved all their iPlayer content onto HTML5 Video.

In a coordinated announcement with Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla, in July 2017 Adobe announced that it would be retiring the platform and its end of life date would be 31 December 2020. This gave developers enough time to replatform their content to alternatives. However, by then several browsers were offering to disable Flash , although you could still install it and enable it if you wished. In July 2019 Google disabled Flash by default in its Chrome browser and all the other major web browsers followed suite.

When Adobe released their final version of Flash Player in December, they also announced that recent versions of the software include a kill switch that prevents Flash Player from loading Flash content starting on January 12th, 2021.

What should I do now?

If you visit a website with the major browsers, Flash content will be blocked. It will simply not run. The only option you have is to fully disable the content in your browser settings. In the latest version of Microsoft Edge (chrome version) and Google Chrome, Flash is disabled by default, but you can still enable Flash but it is not recommended. I suspect in a future update this switch will be removed. Firefox does not have any support for Flash.

If your company needs to run applications built under the Flash platform, you have been given ample time to relatform your applications and these should be discontinued. There are third party installers for Flash, but realistically you need to be off this platform right now.

If you have manual installations of Flash these need to be de-installed as soon as possible as these will be unsupported and vulnerable to cyber attack. If you have enabled Flash in your browser, then you need to disable it.

Conclusion

Adobe Flash is a legacy technology that has had its day. There are several alternatives, most notably the HTML 5 Video standard, that provide a superior experience in modern web browsers.

This is normal for platforms that were developed several years ago and have now come to their end of life. Software applications also require regular updates and newer versions to be fully supported and patched against cyber security vulnerabilities. This is actually a sore point with many consumers since they bought an application and within a few years it becomes unsupported. To get full support you need to buy the latest version. This is one reason I am looking at several open source applications to break this cycle since these are community supported and in most cases free for consumers and small companies. Good examples are the VLC Video player and Paint.net graphics editor and the GIMP graphics editor all of which are supported on Windows, Linux and MacOS. However, there are several fake versions of these applications that may install malware, so fully vet any open source application before you install them. It is often better to stick to the established MacOS, Windows stores as well as any sites supporting your Linux distribution.


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