It’s hardly news that Adobe Flash is on its way out. Major browsers have been slowly pulling support for years now, and Adobe itself has announced that it would be stopping development and support in December 2020.
This means that within the next year, pretty much no mainstream browsers will be able to access Flash content on the Web. No videos, no games, no vintage Flash sites, nothing. So why exactly is this happening, what’s the timeline, and what do you do if you really need to access some kind of flash content later?
Why is Flash going away?
Sunsetting Flash is largely a security-driven move. Flash was once the standard for videos, games, and other Web content, but it’s terrifically vulnerable to exploits, thanks to the way it uses memory and other issues. Another issue is its difficulty integrating with mobile technology due both to its tendency to suck power and its lack of support on both iOS and Android.
Keeping a piece of mostly-desktop software with more holes than a spaghetti strainer patched and sort-of safe is, as you can imagine, kind of a headache. Once other standards, like HTML5 and WebGL, became more functional and widely supported on both desktop and mobile, Flash’s days were numbered.
When will Flash stop working?
Currently, most browsers allow you to access Flash content on a case-by-case basis by manually approving it, but even that option is going to disappear sometime next year. Exactly when that will happen depends on the browser you’re using, as they’ve all announced different timeframes for removing Flash support, but if everything goes according to plan, any Flash content left on the Internet will be largely inaccessible by the end of 2020.
Here’s the general schedule:
- Early 2020: Firefox will completely remove Flash support from consumer versions.
- December 2020: Adobe will no longer update Flash or offer it for download.
- December 2020: Chrome and most Chromium-based browsers (including Microsoft Edge) will remove all Flash support.
Will I still be able to access Flash content?
After 2020, accessing any remaining Flash content on the Web will still be possible, but it’ll take some work. Up-to-date browsers won’t be able to load Flash, but truly desperate Flash fans could use an older version of a browser, block it from auto-updating, and use it only for Flash content.
Of course, that comes with its own security issues, so do this at your own risk and take precautions like running it in a sandbox and only visiting sites you trust. Alternatively, there may still be browsers out there (Firefox/Chromium forks) that choose to keep running Flash in some form, so finding one of those may also help.
Of course, with Flash effectively off the Web, sites that offer Flash-based content might not be around for long, so if there’s anything you really want to save, you’ll need to download the Flash file (SWF) and use a desktop Flash player (like SWF File Player) to open it. This approach could be time-consuming and technical if you’re trying to save all of your favorite content, though.
The last and best option you’ll probably find for accessing this stuff is Flashpoint, which is an ongoing project to archive and distribute the Web’s Flash content. Thousands of games and animations have now been cataloged and are available for you to download and play as you like, so chances are good that you won’t even need to go manually back up the game you were afraid would disappear. If something isn’t on their list of content, you can always contribute to the community and add it yourself.
A Flash in the Pan
It’s estimated that only a small percentage of the Web uses Flash (Google estimates around 17 percent of users see a piece of Flash content every day), so you probably won’t notice a big difference in your day-to-day browsing. A lot of Flash-based content has either already been updated to use a modern standard like HTML5, WebGL, or Unity, and any sites that wants to continue offering their content after 2020 will need to make sure they do this as well. If there’s any Flash content you’re especially attached to, now is the time to make sure it sticks around.