Adobe isn’t killing Flash, just changing the name of the tool that makes it

2 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Adobe Flash Is Dead in Name Only.

Score one for the late Steve Jobs. Adobe Flash helped bring the Internet to life with slick graphics, games, animation, and apps, but its days are numbered: Adobe announced today that it’s rebranding Flash Professional CC as Animate CC.

In an announcement last night, Adobe said that it will now “encourage content creators to build with new web standards,” such as HTML5, rather than Flash. The company says that Animate CC will be “Adobe’s premier Web animation tool for developing HTML5 content.” Certainly, the Web is a different beast from two decades ago, when the first vestiges of Flash started to appear. The goal is to accurately reflect the reality that web developers are using the tool to also create HTML5 content—“over a third of all the content” created with the app—according to Adobe.

According to an Adobe statement announcing the change, it’s part of an ongoing commitment to “evolve to support multiple standards,” specifically HTML5. Flash has been slowly dying over the past decade, in part due to an absence of support on smartphones and in part because it’s kind of become a scourge of the internet.

That’s not to say the technology is dead – Adobe has simply deprecated the Flash Professional name by renaming its animation app to Adobe Animate. Though Flash initially had great success as a tool for creating web games and animations, it has a number of downsides that have stood out more and more each year. This doesn’t mean it’s ceasing support for Flash, however.The updated software, which will be out in early 2016, will still support Flash (SWF) and AIR formats “as first-class citizens,” according to Rich Lee, Adobe’s senior product marketing manager.

The company also said that it’s already working on Flash Player 12 and “a new round of exciting features.” Flash’s downfall has been a gradual process. But as the Internet placed a premium on faster, lighter pages, and with Flash deathly slow to load, and a big drain on laptop batteries, security issues, and more – it’s become somewhat of a relic. Apple chose not to support Flash on iPhones, and Steve Jobs famously penned a thought-piece on the platform, in which he referred to the “closed” nature of a software that was created for a bygone era. “Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers,” he said. Adobe’s blog post also mentions having worked with “Microsoft and Google to help ensure the ongoing compatibility and security of Flash content” in browsers. When Adobe Animate CC debuts early next year, it will introduce features like new vector art brushes, easy access to high-quality stock art, and the ability to rotate the canvas 360 degrees from any pivot point.

The story behind the story: Missing from Adobe’s list of partners is Apple, which stopped bundling Flash with new Macs five years ago, and later helped Adobe sandbox the Flash Player in Safari to restrict potential damage if Flash Player was compromised. However, since an increasingly large portion of the content created in with Flash software uses actually HTML5, Adobe’s software should continue to evolve away from the clunky old Flash standard. It’s just no longer the focus, both because of the negative associations clouding the brand, and because it’s no longer the primary weapon in a developer’s arsenal. In 2015 alone, Flash vulnerabilities have led to targeted attacks, Twitch revealed that it’s switching to HTML5, Google Chrome started pausing “less important” Flash content, and Amazon stopped accepting Flash ads, while both Facebook and Mozilla called for an end to the software.

It’s had to make room for the future, and so has Adobe. “Adobe’s strategy is to make money regardless of what happens in the market,” says Forrester Research principal analyst Jeffrey Hammonds. “They understand that there’s a slow transition to HTML5 going on.” Online advertising, for instance, once a Flash stronghold, has increasingly shifted to HTML5. “At some point you have to embrace the change,” says Hammond. “The rebranding is a visible sign of that, but the internal focus on supporting technologies like HTML5 has been going on a while.” Why go to the trouble of supporting Flash at all, then? At the time, Adobe fired back accusing Apple of “[taking] a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web,” referring to the transition between desktop and mobile browsing.

It’s as resource-heavy and security-addled and closed-off as ever, and hiding it behind a more anodyne name doesn’t solve what pulling the plug altogether would. Why not do that, instead? “There continues to be a huge amount of Flash content out there, especially video and gaming content, and we plan to do all we can to keep Flash Player stable and secure because it is the responsible thing to do,” an Adobe rep says.

Even Facebook seems inclined to agree; the social network is working more closely with Adobe to identify and patch any security holes in games hosted on its platform. Whether it’s a smartphone or tablet app, a game, a video, a digital magazine, a website, or an online experience, chances are that it was touched by Adobe technology. Facebook declined to comment, but Hammond notes that the collaboration doesn’t necessarily mean it has warmed to long-term viability of Flash. “Even if you have an end-of-life date, that would probably be a couple of years into the future,” the analyst says. “Why would you not continue to address security gaps as they come up between now and then?” In fact, if anything the Facebook collaboration underscores just how little the existence of Adobe Animate mitigates the mounting concerns about Adobe Flash Professional.

Adobe says that it expects to see Flash use continue, for now, in web gaming and “premium” video, because HTML5 or other standards “have yet to fully mature” to meet those areas’ needs. When Flash does go away, it will exact a cost. “I think a lot of older websites that have not been updated will be broken on laptops and desktops, because a lot of folks have been building on mobile over the last couple of years,” says Hammond. “I actually think we’re going to see a bigger impact in the enterprise world than in the consumer world, because a lot of the technologies behind the firewall are a lot slower to evolve.” The Web already is littered with the artifacts of outdated standards, though; it’s an unfortunate but predictable side effect of barreling into the future. And the workloads that currently fall to Flash—those videos and games—should be manageable in HTML5 at some point, especially given Adobe’s commitment to the open standard. “We’ve always been at the forefront of HTML5 design and development,” says the Adobe rep,” “and have embraced it as the future of the web platform.” “There are differences in HTML5 and Flash, the former being open source while the latter is closed source,” says Malwarebytes security researcher Jérôme Segura. “In theory, this means the code can go through more scrutiny, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to better security.” “The other concern to watch for would be any alterations to HTML5 to accommodate the needs of the ad or gaming industry,” continues Segura. “A piece of technology can start with the best intentions, but as new features and requirements come along developers may have to make concessions, which often have a security impact.”

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