Flash: A Short Soliloquy
Flash made it so that someone like me, someone who was never going to be a real hardcore coder, could make some pretty amazing things. As of December 31st 2020, it's been finally purged from the internet. An agonizingly drawn-out demise which has been on the cards since 2015. I wanted to take a sincere moment to reflect on what it means to me.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Flash. A rich online community, a wealth of shared code and advice, a human-readable language all combined to make the most user-friendly and fun way of putting together interactive content as rich as the creator’s imagination. Coming from a video background, I stumbled into Flash via its ease of use for creating animations (I also loved to draw in Flash - the way it would auto-smooth the lines for you made everything just look better!). Soon I had started adding keyframes to my animation timelines which would make the the characters blink and it was a slippery slope from there as the infinite possibilities of actionscript 2.0 stretched out ahead of me! I was hired in 2006 by creative powerhouse Big Red Button to make them a website in Flash. Combining stop motion animated, needle-felted creatures with glowing vector fireflies, I learnt on my feet and was then ready to join the big bad world of the Ad Agency, wielding my new-found Flash over-confidence!
From London to New York, I joined the ranks of the Actionscripers in advertising. When I landed at Rokkan in Manhattan in 2008, our scrappy team felt like the in-house rockstars - there was nothing we couldn’t figure out how to make COOL. Yes, there were plenty of banner ads. But the full-video, lushly animated experiential websites that were all the range on the web at that time were things of beauty. The FWA rewarded them with prestigious awards - each site more visually stunning and groundbreaking than the last. We made websites for the likes of Nintendo, Bethesda Games, Virgin. For a good few years things were golden. But with the advent on smart phones everything changed. I don’t need to wax poetic about why, but the truth was, the way people used the internet was changing drastically. Flash developers were left with a big decision to make - what would they do next? Personally HTML5 at that time was so far from touching the things I loved doing with Flash that it was never even an option. I made a hard left, brushed off my video editing software and took a long, sad look in the rear view mirror as the immersive web playground we had labored over for so many years faded from view. I pushed it though. Even after my wacky combo of video and interactive experience had landed me my dream job at Nickelodeon in 2016, I was still churning out the annual #teamassin Xmas “card” in Flash (even if I had to start providing a video as back up when friends told me they’d deleted Flash from their computers, fearful of “security risks” SMH). And people are always surprised to hear that to this day, I develop apps for iOS and Android using (formerly Adobe, now Harman) AIR - the platform for application development which is.. basically.. Flash.
There’s a still-thriving community of us out there. It’s certainly a lot smaller these days, since so many app developers have departed for the likes of Unity, and there’s no guarantee that it will continue forever. We’ve been burned before, so bad news in the future is something I think every AIR developer is braced for. But, it’s a beautiful thing to me that when inspiration hits (or it’s November and time to spin up another quick Christmas game) I’m able to roll up my sleeves and jump headfirst back into the only programming language that I feel at home with.
Flash, R.I.P. We had some good years together. Just keep it on the DL that they could kick you off the web but you’re still living on on most people’s phones in apps built with AIR, OK?