I was working at Macromedia and happened to be in the office earlier than usual that morning. Our SVP came to my boss and said basically “We bought Futurewave, we’re announcing it today, and we’re renaming FutureSplash to Shockwave Flash. I need somebody to throw a quick animation together for the press gathering, and none of the creative services people are in the building yet.”
So I downloaded the tool and made this weird little animation with the Shockwave logo falling onto the FutureSplash name and crushing the “utureSp” letters.
After that, we shared a floor with the Flash team. Good people. Jonathan Gay is very smart.
Any chance you've got a copy of that on an old hard drive somewhere? I bet the IA folks would love to highlight that.
However, it's preservation to be able to run & archiving of flash media are an absolute cornerstone of any attempt to archive the 2000s internet. Flash introduced & inspired countless people who have no doubt gone on to build amazing things in other technologies.
I love flash. I'm glad it's not used anymore, but I truly love the content it produced from the bottom of my heart.
Long live Flash & special mention to Macromedia Shockwave.
Nothing filled the gap left by Flash. It was easy, accessible, and drew so many young people to create.
Flash had security issues, but they could have been fixed. Macromedia and/or Adobe could (and should) have published an open source standard and realized their tooling would always be ahead of the game. They didn't see the incredible opportunity and dropped the ball.
If Flash had been in decent shape at the time smart phones arrived, Flash support might have been a required feature. Lots of people would have launched apps as Flash apps instead of iOS- or Android-specific apps, and we might have gotten much more open and cross-platform devices as a consequence.
I kind of blame Flash's lack of follow-through for the App Store hell we have today.
The web that could have been...
Just the sheer amount of interesting games and videos available on places like NewGrounds and Kongregate was something else. It was kind of crazy how easy it was at the time to get at least some attention to any proof of concept project simply by posting onto said sites.
Something that has definitely gotten much harder over time despite the more advanced tools that are available to hobbyists these days.
I think it was a mix of how easy flash made it to go from some vector art drawn in app, to hooking up some key-frames together with logic for a game etc... But it was also IMO strongly influenced by the internet culture at time, where there was (at least it felt like) a larger audience of people available to try out wacky often no/low-budget things.
I haven't quite seen the same environment emerge on places Itch.IO and to an extent Steam.
I'm not sure if they're building the same kind of future capital and skill sets that we did, but maybe it'll turn out well for them. Especially if there's an explosion in the creative economy.
Still, it's incredibly hard to beat a technology that teaches kids to program as a side effect. Flash and early web raised up a generation of engineers.
That's not how we do things anymore. Now everything is an appliance and the user is cattle as far as the developer is concerned.
It's a kind of gatekeeping behavior - "I suffered through memorizing a bunch of git commands by rote, and now you have to as well."
As you said in your last paragraph, Flash _raised up_ a generation of engineers by _lowering_ the entry barriers to a minimum. TikTok is just a showcase for attw's.
It's just that when we look back we remember the gems but not the river of crap, but when we look at the present we see the river too.
Don't 90% of Youtube videos get less than a thousand views ? There are millions of videos on TikTok, I'd imagine the algorithm results in the same 80-20 ish sort of balance.
Yes, there were bad Flash projects. But just like everything else, we remember the good ones.
TikTok is probably teaching vital skills for their futures.
Arguably "content creation" is core to every > middle class job now - you have to get people onboard to get things done. Personally I still think writing is more valuable but perhaps the knowledge creation and sharing (_inside_ companies) of tomorrow will be done by making and watching videos.
I very much do not want to be part of that future, but I recognise it a likely possibility.
Arguably, it's the case today to some degree with company meetings/team meetings/etc. typically recorded for people who couldn't attend live. But it's pretty low bandwidth for most purposes to communicate basic facts in the absence of interaction. I for one rarely listen to recordings of meetings I miss and I assume I'm pretty typical. For many purposes I'd much prefer a 1 page email.
It's like all the how-tos on the Internet that don't really have a visual component but are a video anyway.
From experience as the corporation gets larger communicating and communicating-adjacent activities approach 90-95% of the time. The remainder is doing.
I think there's a future where long tail art can be funded on an artisanal level by patrons, and the network will connect consumers to artists that satisfy their interests.
Are you interested in an alternate history Oregon Trail where an alien invasion forces westward migration? Or perhaps a time travelling Jacques Cousteau serial where the protagonist searches for love across the ages?
Somebody will make something weird that satisfies your interests and you will pay them directly. And it'll be better than canned Star Wars spam. It'll be real, and the creator will know you by name.
ML and automation will bring down the cost of content creation dramatically and make it look and feel more compelling than the studio stuff we get today.
...that you know about. :)
Don't go into creating porn with that mindset, it's not a guarantee you'll make significant money. It's still better than creating advertisement though.
0.1 per cent of those on TikTok, or any other sharecropping platform will be able to extend their online persona into something that makes money.
Only a few make a living out of it
And there's a limit on the amount of tik tok like videos that will get attention, once everybody will start making them
They did open it up...
Until May 1, 2008, implementing software that plays SWF was disallowed by the specification's license. On that date, as part of its Open Screen Project, Adobe dropped all such restrictions on the SWF and FLV formats.
If Flash had been in decent shape at the time smart phones arrived, they might have been a required feature.
...but the feature bloat that Adobe created with the platform was part of the problem, introducing not only security issues but inefficiency. SWF started out as a small and efficient vector format, and then accrued far more features than were really necessary for its core purpose.
(HTML+JS+CSS is even less efficient, but have somehow taken over thanks to Google and the like.)
Adobe themselves pushed for using open web tech. I was working at Adobe in AS3/Flex during the transition and they were going to great lengths to promote and encourage development of open standards.
Apple realized very early on that you needed hardware acceleration for common computing tasks in order to have laptops that last more than an hour on a single charge. It took Adobe several years after the launch of the iPhone to actually support some amount of hardware accelerated video decode, and as far as I'm aware vector rendering (the core of the platform) was never meaningfully accelerated. As far as I'm aware, pre-iPhone efforts to get onto phones involved a special cut-down Flash runtime that was perpetually out-of-date and was only really popular on early-2000s Japanese handsets. This wasn't at all built for the "computer in your pocket" that Jobs wanted.
As HTML5 was emerging someone posted a HTML 5 demo on hacker news. It put 1 core of my machine to 80%. I wrote an equivalent version in Flash and it used 5%.
All the people writing terrible code in Flash simply started writing terrible code in Java script instead.
At some point the browser vendors started addressing that, and things got better.
But I think the other part of Flash is the tools used to create it - I never understood why they didn't port those to HTML5 and worked with the browser vendors to get kinks ironed out, instead of doubling down on - what was the name - Adobe Air? I think they still had some market power they could have wielded.
In late 2000s they owned the Web App space ( what was called Rich Internet Applications in their speak). Flex (their business GUI components library and markup language) was absolutely dominating corporate Web app development.
And they just abandoned it.
In an alternative reality we are all building HTML5 Web apps with Flex Builder right now.
The Flash Player is, at the end of the day, a proprietary Canvas widget with a ECMAScript based VM powering it. With HTML5 they could have targetted the actual real HTML5 Canvas and completely eliminated the flash player plug in whilst still retaining the tools.
Then came the node_modules black hole and the left-pad debacle.
I had a manager in the late 2000's who was giddy with the possibilities of HTML5 "It can do everything we do with flash!" Whilst that may be technically true, in practice bloated libraries like D3 are required for even the most basic vector manipulation and coding every tiny detail of an animation feels like groping in the dark when there used to be a source of illumination.
I'm not sad about the demise of Flash, but I think there is a gap in the market for a more graphical keyframe based approach, where things can be rapidly prototyped, resulting in clean code.
I tested every application I could find a couple of years ago. Lots of pretty prototyping apps, but generally the end code is somehow garbled or proprietary.
No it isn't. It has degenerated into being only browsable in its entirety by Chrome, with all other "browser vendors" except Apple having given up due to sheer complexity and infeasibility to keep up - Opera, Microsoft, and now Firefox. That's what you get by putting Google (ie WHATWG, consisting of Chrome devs) into the role of defining so-called "web standards", with W3C (a self-declared "standardization body") depending on Google's and other big player's money having done nothing meaningful for years except brittling and foobaring CSS.
So at least from my perspective this had a big impact
Flash is mainly self-cancelled by Adobe itself. It looks they couldn't get expected revenue from this product. However, I think they are short-sighted at this point.
Then Apple announced they weren't going to support flash and overnight everyone realized flash was dead, and Air and Silverlight were both a dead end.
I was working on a Silverlight product at the time and it got canned soon after too, with Microsoft soon losing enthusiasm for it too.
Some oldies from here:
2007 - Steve Jobs saying Flash is bad for video:
2008 - John Gruber being prescient about Apple banning flash compiler:
2010 - Apple bans Flash-to-iPhone Compiler (2nd comment thread is pg saying he's against it ideologically):
It's a GUI-based web animation tool that exports to HTML and MP4, with the ability to write custom JS if you need it. Being able to visually look at timelines and set tweening by dragging a slider is much more my speed, and reminiscent of Flash, which I haven't done anything on in more than 10 years.
Best of all, it's a one-time payment. I considered Adobe Animate, but monthly subscriptions are a total no-no for me.
1080p streaming in real-time is "good enough" and YouTube will not only host it for free, but even share ad revenue. You could deliver vector animation in HTML5, but a pure animation platform will have a hard time against something that can do both animation and camera recordings.
Easier said than done, but fun to think about how things could have played out if Flash was given a dedicated hardware platform and follow on generational iterations ie- today maybe we'd have one more option other than iOS or Android. In fact, an allegience with Microsoft probably would have been best and saved both companies' endevours in the dedicated phone/tablet space but now I'm just spitballing.
If you mean it didn't have the complexity of today's JS-based apps that may be true but that's a choice, not a technical limitation.
Also as a direct substitute, Unity has much inferior font rendering, and no built-in vector graphics capabilities.
If I was doing a 2D animation tool for browser export, I don’t see that unity would offer me much, and would come with a lot of downsides.
Is the source code for Flash available? That would be brilliant.
Flash should have never been used to create websites. end of story.
I see that as a good thing. Flash was a power hungry, slow and obnoxious technology. Not to mention it was a security nightmare.
I'm glad the barrier to entry to make pointless animations is atleast slightly higher
Every now and then some poor soul realizes what a mess they're in and writes a blog about the miserable state of web development, but the wider community cannot face the truth, because it would mean that the last 20 years of "progress" have been wasted.
And indeed, after two decades of support from every player in the industry, shoving countless APIs in the pseudo web standards controlled by Google, modern web applications work almost as well as a Flash app - except with thousands of tiny packages and tools cobbled together into one big ball of nonsense.
I’m not happy it’s dead, I just don’t think it’s a good choice these days. As an artistic tool it’s perfectly valid, but I wouldn’t use it to design my next project.
Trying valiantly like many to replace my current affairs media diet with something more substantive, and Internet Archive has proven invaluable. Currently enjoying a first edition pdf scan of an E M Forester novel from 1920s. And it's transporting to dive into the yellowed pages, modernist fonts, and random errata. Thanks for all your important work ;)
I managed to grab a local copy. Let me know if you want it.
My personal favorites would be the Demented Cartoon Movie , Weebl and Bob's transdimensional portal  (which is located under the stairs) and of course The End of the World . They all load perfectly in Ruffle .
 SWF: https://locker.phinugamma.org/swf/albinoblacksheep/demented%... | Video: https://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/demented
 SWF: https://locker.phinugamma.org/swf/albinoblacksheep/end%28www... | Video: https://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/end
Edit: Most of the SWF files are showing a black screen on the demo website, even though I do not have time to individually debug all files, I might be able to automate the testing part
I just remembered that I have tons of SWFs on my hard-drive too. If someone else has a data-dump, do share!
The archive only has a single animutation too, which is a bit sad. Some of them are uploaded to youtube, but that loses any hidden interactivity that some of them had. Hopefully someone can find the original SWFs and upload them.
No need to wonder; you can read his reflection on it here , although it's unclear when exactly it was written.
“ On June 1, 2006, YouTube was taken down temporarily for maintenance. The phrase "ALL YOUR VIDEO ARE BELONG TO US" appeared below the YouTube logo as a placeholder while the site was down. Some users believed the site had been hacked, leading YouTube to add the message ‘ "No, we haven't be [sic] hacked. Get a sense of humor.”’
I can’t imagine YouTube doing anything like that today for a meme?
I have to thank the Japanese for having a sense of humor otherwise "all your base" would have died a slow and painful death long ago at the hands of the joke police, and it still might if it were to ever leave its relative obscurity.
Do you have a link for this? I’d like to read more about it. Searching for YT Rewind gave me the Wikipedia article and some scrubbed articles that don’t include stuff a out a fiasco.
Julia Alexander of The Verge suggested that YouTube had intentionally left out the biggest moments on the platform in 2018 from the video in an attempt to calm concerned advertisers over controversies that had plagued the platform over the past 2 years, saying "it's increasingly apparent, however, that YouTube is trying to sell a culture that's different from the one millions of people come to the platform for, and that's getting harder for both creators and fans to swallow".
The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene, in 1976. The internet got the term from the book.
It's not on archive.org yet as far as I can tell.
Really crazy how little data went into stuff like that.
And as it's drawn with vector graphics (I guess?) it can be sharper than most of the videos of that that you can find today (or was it fixed? I don't remember -- at least it looked so sharp then!). Anyway, the following video on youtube is approximately the content of the 600 KB swf, but, of course, with unchangeable and limited pixel rendering -- and around 50 MB in highest resolution.
Edit: Just found -- the special edition captured in the above video is ~ 700 KB swf (719,527 bytes):
There, having 100 KB more, one can also click to see the "deleted scene", play a small "game" or read the hate mail. And it does render across my full screen.
Edit 2: Tried ruffle. It can play that swf. Ruffle good. (But it seems that the lines are thicker and that the connections don't look the same)
Yeah, Flash was fundamentally a vector format for much of its life. It started adding bitmaps after a while, I wanna say in the Flash 5 era? It's been a long time and I've deliberately put a lot of my time with Flash in the mental vault, as it was also mostly time working under John K.
Anyway. I spent a lot of time hand-optimizing autotraces of scans of ink drawings, and even more time moving them around in sync to dialogue. Flash was very much about sending compact vector representations over your 28.8kbaud modem connection and moving them around instead of sending anything like what we would call a video stream, until they added the FLV format and YouTube happened.
I still don't know, how are we going to be able to watch the old content with the native Flash player, at least on our desktops? Depending on the new emulations can result in missing or differently presented content (like these thicker lines?).
It feels like there is a desire for the same hacky frontend yet no one wants to invest.
(Disclaimer: I built it)
It currently lacks sound, but a lot of young people seem to be having fun using it to create games, animations, stories, puzzles, etc.
This: you open the page but it needs to be downloaded. You download it. You unzip it. You see that it's a Windows executable but you're on a Mac. You open it hoping that wine will run it. It does. You choose your graphics settings. You click OK. It plays.
Though I'm aware that Unity is capable of running on the web, I haven't seen that capability used much.
It is very sad what Adobe did with Flash (and Fireworks, and Dreamweaver...), especially in the wake of WASM where they could have ported most of the platform. I guess there was no financial incentives to do that.
I guess this is just another example of being unable to count on profit motivated corporations. It's a good thing the IA is trying to help.
I'm not aware of any search engines that index arbitrary files that the browser or some ubiquitous media viewer can't open. The most annoying I can think of is the occasional powerpoint files I've run across on google, and at least those are usually cached in a browser-friendly format.
It'd be like indexing Adobe CS project files, and requiring a subscription to Adobe to open the search result.
It's a shame that Adobe has all but buried it, but it does work.
Honestly its the only good way to view downloaded flash content nowadays, because it preserves all the hyperlinks and other nonlinearity that is lost on conversion to a video file. Strongbad emails, for example, have tons of hidden content activated by clicking hotspots during playback. (You can even hunt for them by hitting Tab)
And does Google index/show any of them in a search result? You usually have to get them indirectly from pages, but the search links themselves never directly link to any unsupported file type AFAIK
[Edit] A quick search reveals that Google stopped indexing SWF files fairly recently: https://searchengineland.com/google-to-stop-indexing-flash-c...
(https://archive.org/donate/ in case anyone else is feeling generous)
I'm really hoping it will end up on The Internet Archive. I sure would like to see it again. It was very beautiful.
I’m surprised that so few people in these comments seem aware of Flashpoint, and that the linked article only mentions Flashpoint briefly at the end.
I expect Flashpoint to always have a bigger archive of SWFs than the Internet Archive. This is because the Internet Archive seems to be aiming to only host SWFs that can be compiled for web using Ruffle, while Flashpoint accepts any SWF that can be played by the official Flash Player. Flashpoint can do that because it targets users who are willing to install its archive-browsing software for Windows, which includes a version of Flash Player.
That is the one that I still remembered so vividly that this post motivated me to download a Flash player and look through my folder of SWF files for the first time in probably at least 15 years.
I’ve previously also taken brief dives into Lightspark and even submitted a minor PR or two. Lightspark is cool, but I feel Ruffle is already surpassing it in regards.
I maintain Open-Flash , another project around maintaining Flash. It was started following the discontinuation of Mozilla's Shumway emulator.
I wanted to write a Node.js program to parse and merge SWF files. I hoped to import Shumway's parser and reuse it for my own project but it turned out that Shumway wasn't modular enough. This prompted me to write my own parsers and emitters for SWF and AVM1 (the actionscript bytecode used by Flash < 9). At this point I was able to process my SWF files, and started to dream of going further and provide a full emulator.
I wrote a small renderer and VM, and was able to render a few simple files . This happened around 2017-2018, before Ruffle was announced. Unfortunately I was only working on this project only during my free time while I was studying: I did not have much time to dedicate to it. Running a few SWF files is quite easy, but implementing the whole Flash API is a large task hard to achieve alone.
There's still a lot of work to do, but today I am happy for Ruffle: the project continues to advance and it bought us time to save Flash files and avoid us from losing part of internet's history.
It archives flashes (and their threads!) from /f/ and others. A great historical resource.
The presentation of swfchan may not be for everyone, but it does hold an immense amount of data.
Kids today won't know the pain of not being able to see 50 small stick figures trying to pummel each other at >15fps.
Also Flash was one of the best dev environments in history, in my opinion. More precisely, one of the most accessible, which most dev environments lack.
I heard a rumor Shumway was abandoned as a project by Mozilla because ex-Adobe engineers were steering the project and Adobe issued concerns; they probably could have been worked out, but you know, Mozilla. Since then, Flash has been end of life'd more aggressively, so I think Shumway could return.
Flash files should be like music or graphic files - playable in a variety of players and items. Even VLC someday, we could hope.
Lightspark is something I started 10 years ago, back in my University years. Nowadays, I am working on the problem of Flash preservation and life extension from the perspective of compilers and virtual machines at Leaning Technologies. If you want to read more about our approach:
I have not heard that rumor about Shumway. As a former Mozilla distinguished engineer, I think I would have.
Thanks for pointing out Lightspark is progressing. I thought it had stalled, but I was wrong. Still, if Lightspark is doing well it's not ideal to split efforts into multiple projects.
Mozilla stopped working on Shumway primarily because:
2. Content creators were already moving on from Flash. They were slowly heeding the “Flash is a dead end” messaging from browser makers and Adobe itself.
So Mozilla saw multiple engineer-years of work ahead to support a proprietary technology that was shrinking and decided the Shumway engineers’ time would be better spent on other Mozilla projects. Even if Firefox bundled a Shumway with great Flash compatibility, content creators would choose a technology that is going to work in Chrome and IE.
Flash -> “Flash Gordon” -> Gordon -> “Gordon Shumway” (the alien ALF’s real name) -> Shumway :)
But what I said is still true in terms of implementation effort.
This is just one example of how important Flash has been to my career.
(When I interned there, the team that sat next to us was working on the HTML5 player. Everyone knew Flash's days were numbered.)
It was the summer of 2005, we were gathered at Macromedia’s Townsend Building in San Francisco, waiting for the session starting with Gary Grossman, the man who created ActionScript.
There was someone showing us a map-ish thing on a web-browser, of what I think, was a Flash-powered real-time track of one of the attendant on his boat and soon to dock, and eventually attend the sessions. I thought it was super awesome and I was too timid to ask more about that.
I also remember we talked a lot about Macromedia to Open Source SWF, but soon learnt that Adobe was acquiring them. After about spending 3-4 years of deep-dive into Flash, 2005-2006 was the time I realized Flash isn’t something I wanted to pursue further.
Flash gave creators so much more latitude than YouTube and whatever it is that Steve Jobs wanted for us. We've really lost something.
Facebook, Platforms, ... we had so much more free-form creativity back in the golden era of the web. It's a shame.
Flash, despite not being open source, was really amazing and nothing has filled its place.
Kinky animations and semi-interactive games were well suited to the Flash format, with its ease of distribution (small file size, single webpage/file) and multimedia capabilities.
It was a fun and challenging way to expand my programming knowledge as a teenager. Will definitely look into setting up some classic games again using this.
A side note, and perhaps this is down to Safari's imperfect WASM support, but I'm not getting any sound in Safari.
Apparently some of them are on youtube now:
Google had Swiffy, an online service that took your SWF and repackaged it in a non-Flash form. It was primarily intended for advertisers but it eventually had AVM1 and 2 support. It's discontinued because advertisers moved away from Flash faster than expected (and Adobe Animate got some amount of HTML5 export capability). I'm also not sure how well it handled some of Flash's trickier to emulate behaviors.
As an example of this, ActionGetVariable and ActionSetVariable (the thing that handles statements like "child_clip.var") aren't just limited to taking an object and a property name string, because that's not how they were originally intended to be used. Originally, those actions would take a whole path to the variable, and it was in slash-path syntax, e.g. "\child_clip:var". You could also chain paths in one op, and the implementation would dutifully parse the path out and traverse it to get the variable. This means that there are movies that will issue opcodes like "ActionGetVariable this '\level.Alien\bullet:speed'" and we have to support any combination of slashes, colons, and dots or SWFs will break.
AVM1 is a bottomless pit of those kinds of odd exceptions, and you have to support them all in order to get good compatibility with games. This is the sort of thing that only makes sense for an entity like Ruffle funded entirely by people who want to make old games work. It does not make financial or any other kind of sense to sink many hours of development time into an old-and-busted proprietary animation platform other than on the basis of preservation.
Now its dead, all websites on the Internet look the same and were all using shitty js frameworks trying to achieve what Flash could do in 3 clicks.
But what's the replacement for the Flash editor? that is easy to use, productive, with a low technical barrier?
There's also the excellent Gnash program for playing swf files :)
Indeed their popularity was boosted by Flash.
Just feel we have a healthy amount of original pieces (both animations and games) to pick from when talking about Flash.
This way we didn't have to support Flash on the Digital Signage player hardware, but could still accept Flash animations from the ad agencies.
Haxe lives and does compile for IOS on though, the irony (or the power of open source).
I mean you could say the exact same thing for most websites that weren't fit for mobile and touch screen either. It had nothing to do with Flash, it was 100% a developer's problem, not a tech problem.
Flash problems are: proprietary/closed source VM, performances and security, which was all on Adobe side, not Flash developers.
In fact, Flash apps did run on Mobile including IOS via Air. https://www.adobe.com/products/air.html
So Steve Jobs was wrong initially. Let us remember that Jobs didn't want native apps on IOS, he wanted people to write web apps and Native apps to be solely the prerogative on Apple, until he changed his mind. Now you be that Apple prefers developers to write native apps, since it makes Apple a substantial amount of money.
Adobe just couldn't get it done.
This is what disruption is like. It's great that we have orgs like IA doing the work to keep this old content alive and accessible, and a platform like the Web that can grow and adapt over time.
They should have fully open sourced it, at least the runtime.
> They should have fully open sourced it, at least the runtime.
Rumor had it that there was code in there that Adobe (or more likely, FutureSplash) had licensed and couldn't release.
There is also the possibility that the licensed code would have been trivial to work around, which ironically would have created more liability for Adobe due to the mind-boggling stupidity that is "software patents" (in theory, software patents claim a specific implementation, but then in practice are often used to shake down anyone who makes a different implementation of the same idea, and the simpler the idea behind the patent, the worse the problem gets, unless you can find prior art to invalidate the patent claims). All of which would have put Adobe in a tough position, since they are fairly pro software patents.