Media Art, User Experience Design, and Interface Development

So long and thanks for all the Flash

Posted on 2020-12-31

Small women dressed as fish and chips dance in front of two huge seagulls dressed as sailors
Illustration by Mario Klingemann, who was quicker than me in posting this heading I already had in mind

And so the death of Flash on the web has finally come to pass, as of tonight, Adobe will no longer support Flash, the animation plug-in that allowed so many to create digital content, some great, much horrible. While this seems like it may not impact much of today’s web, it puts a final nail on the coffin of the Creative Web so that the Capitalist Web can finally reign supreme.

Just like many creative developers of the 1990s and 2000s, I don’t have a computer science degree. I dropped math in high school since I wanted to head out to art and media school where I could learn to edit video and work in radio stations. I attended a public college who had cut a lot of the media courses, and mostly offered literature courses. I did attend a Macromedia Director course though.

Advanced Flash Certificate
Certificate I obtained in 2003

Fast forward a few years after I graduated from college. I tried learning cartoon animation, and that’s when I discovered Flash. Toon Boom was not yet published or widespread, and I felt it lacked the potential of interaction that Flash offered. Even better, Flash allowed me to hope to create video games! Ever since I was a kid playing The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy on the NES, I have been hoping to make characters move on screen. I have tons of spritesheets that I was creating from looking into game manuals, and eventually from extracting images from game emulators.

Since the end of the 1990s, I had been working in all sorts of customer service and call center jobs. I had no recognizable experience or training to work in digital creation. By 2007, I managed to get a job as a Flash developer at an e-commerce shop. Then by 2009, I moved on to another job in advertising, where I could finally work on animating creative visuals and interfaces. Those were the days where Flash was in full force and in demand.

Then came Steve Jobs with his thoughts on Flash. Coming out like this against so many people’s skills and livelihoods felt disrespectful—which, now that I know more about the guy, is totally in character. In retrospect, he was not wrong, however what came to pass is not the golden web standard years either. Sure, these standards improved, but creativity on the web greatly suffered.

And so I took the time to apply my design knowledge to learn more about actual user interaction and experience. I learned the web standards more properly; HTML, CSS, JavaScript, accessibility. In hindsight, I feel like a sucker for doing so. In 2020, it feels like very few in the tech field anymore are really interested in crafting creative interactions. Developers argue about inane computer sciency things and want their frameworks to do all the work they were previously complaining Flash developers were offloading to that platform.

I guess today’s web is not my web. It’s a new generation’s, and I should be fine with it.

I am grateful I managed to work on crazy creative projects, I got to meet great creative people at work and in conferences, I got to travel thanks in part to this work I have done with Flash. We should ensure to find a way to archive all this creative work done in Flash though, for art history and tech history’s sake.

Thanks Flash, you got me into the creative tech world. Rest in peace.


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