Are You Ready for the End of the Flash Browser Plug-In in 2020?

August 11, 2017

Filed under: Web — Simon Walklate

The end is nigh

It’s been on the cards for a number of years now, with Adobe essentially giving up on getting the Flash plug-in onto mobile devices some time ago and embracing HTML5. In fact it seems like forever since we’ve created any Flash based content for the web. But now the deadline of the end of 2020 has been announced. After this date Flash content will cease to work in the web browser.

The major browser vendors are also following this same timeline, in phasing out access to Flash content. Even the ones that have incorporated Flash technology directly into their browsers (removing the need for a plug-in installation) are not exempt. So there will be no continued support for Flash beyond 2020 in Google Chrome either, despite there being no need for the Flash plugin-in there.

This really is the end of the road for web based Flash. No web based Flash content will work after the cut-off.

That gives you three short years to plan and execute the conversion of any Flash based content to modern web standards. Either convert it, or lose it after Flash is gone.

What content is effected?

Short answer is anything on the web that requires the installation of the Adobe Flash plugin.

Any remaining Flash content you care about is likely to anything you consider “evergreen”. It’ll still get enough traffic/use to justify it’s existence and ultimately the the time, effort and budget to convert and keep it. This could be:

  • Marketing content – Any web based multimedia content that helps drive traffic or get links/social shares. This could be anything from a simple interactive widget to a complex web based game.
  • Training/e-learning content – Web based multimedia content either for conducting training programmes as part of your business needs to be addressed.

Basically, any Flash content that is useful/entertaining to your users, that isn’t time specific and still provides value to your business, should be prioritised. Especially if you have lots of content that you need to keep, starting to audit and planning for content update and replacement is essential now.

The end of Flash games

This will also mean the end of an era in web games development. Any web based games built in Flash will need to be converted and replaced or taken down before the deadline.

This might not sound like a huge big deal, but it is. Most of the big games companies on Facebook are still to this day using Flash based versions of their games for desktop computer users. These will need to go through the potentially expensive and time consuming process of being converted to HTML5, or taken down.

This doesn’t just apply to big games companies though. If you’ve had any Flash based games developed in the past now is the perfect time to start planning to get them converted. Building a brand new version using modern web standards also gives you a great opportunity for an update/redesign to raise the quality of any dated games.

A great opportunity to finally go mobile compatible

If you’ve been putting off the conversion process, now is a great time to think again. Converting Flash content to HTML5 will future-proof it for years to come and finally allow mobile users to access your content on their devices. This will further increase the reach and ultimately value of your content.

Budget and time

Obviously, the more Flash content you want to keep, after the deadline, the more time and budget you’re going to need. This is why you must start assessing and planning now. If you have lots of content to convert, it could be a monumental task. Don’t put it off until 6 months before, because there may not be time then to get the work done. Also, if you start now, you’ve got three years to spread the cost over.

Does this effect Adobe AIR?

There’s been a fair amount of confusion over the name Flash in relation to the development tools and the web based deployment platform. Because of this Adobe even rebranded the tools from “Adobe Flash Pro” to “Adobe Animate” recently. The tools will continue to exist long after Flash is gone from the web. (In fact we still use Flash Pro tools to help with animation and visual asset creation for our HTML5 games).

The Adobe AIR platform for building mobile and desktop PC apps will still exist and be updated and supported by Adobe. You’ll still essentially be able to use “Flash” technology to create stand-alone application builds for computers and mobile devices. No existing Adobe AIR based apps will be effected. It’s just the web based component that will no longer exist.

Should I stop creating new Flash content?

There’s no easy answer to this. In general though (with a few exceptions), I would say you need to steer away from creating new Flash content for the Flash web player, if you haven’t already.

There are some limited instances where Flash content may still make sense in the short term though. For instance if you’re creating content with a relatively short shelf life (e.g. for a marketing campaign and needs to be accessible to older, HTML5 incompatible browsers on desktop computers only). These instances will be few and far between at this point though. So 9 times out of 10 you should use HTML5 for all new content going forward, in order to future-proof it.

What Now?

We’d highly recommended that you start thinking about and auditing any Flash content you may have ASAP. Prioritise your most valuable assets and start allocating budget to convert any critical Flash based content (that you know will definitely still be valuable to you in three years time).

Three years sounds like a long time, but it really isn’t. Especially if you have lots of Flash content, the conversion process can be extremely time consuming. So start now.

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