Wired Remembers the Glory Days of Flash

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Wired Remembers the Glory Days of Flash (wired.co.uk)

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EditorDavid

on Sunday October 13, 2019 @08:36PM

from the animutations dept.

Wired recently remembered Flash as “the annoying plugin” that transformed the web “into a cacophony of noise, colour, and controversy, presaging the modern web.”

They write that its early popularity in the mid-1990s came in part because “Microsoft needed software capable of showing video on their website, MSN.com, then the default homepage of every Internet Explorer user.” But Flash allowed anyone to become an animator. (One Disney artist tells them that Flash could do in three days what would take a professional animator 7 months — and cost $10,000.)

Their article opens in 2008, a golden age when Flash was installed on 98% of desktops — then looks back on its impact:

The online world Flash entered was largely static. Blinking GIFs delivered the majority of online movement. Constructed in early HTML and CSS, websites lifted clumsily from the metaphors of magazine design: boxy and grid-like, they sported borders and sidebars and little clickable numbers to flick through their pages (the horror).

Flash changed all that. It transformed the look of the web

Some of these websites were, to put it succinctly, absolute trash. Flash was applied enthusiastically and inappropriately. The gratuitous animation of restaurant websites was particularly grievous — kitsch abominations, these could feature thumping bass music and teleporting ingredients. Ishkur’s ‘guide to electronic music’ is a notable example from the era you can still view — a chaos of pop arty lines and bubbles and audio samples, it looks like the mind map of a naughty child…

In contrast to the web’s modern, business-like aesthetic, there is something bizarre, almost sentimental, about billion-dollar multinationals producing websites in line with Flash’s worst excess: long loading times, gaudy cartoonish graphics, intrusive sound and incomprehensible purpose… “Back in 2007, you could be making Flash games and actually be making a living,” remembers Newgrounds founder Tom Fulp, when asked about Flash’s golden age. “That was a really fun time, because that’s kind of what everyone’s dream is: to make the games you want and be able to make a living off it.”

Wired summarizes Steve Jobs”http://tech.slashdot.org/”brutally candid” diatribe against Flash in 2010. “Flash drained batteries. It ran slow. It was a security nightmare. He asserted that an era had come to an end… ‘[T]he mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards — all areas where Flash falls short.”http://tech.slashdot.org/” Wired also argues that “It was economically viable for him to rubbish Flash — he wanted to encourage people to create native games for iOS.”

But they also write that today, “The post-Flash internet looks different. The software’s downfall precipitated the rise of a new aesthetic…one moulded by the specifications of the smartphone and the growth of social media,” favoring hits of information rather than striving for more immersive, movie-emulating thrills.

And they add that though Newgrounds long-ago moved away from Flash, the site’s founder is now working on a Flash emulator to keep all that early classic content playable in a browser.

The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work.
— Richard Bach, “Illusions”

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