It’s much more easy to lose digital history than we think.
November 16, 2020 6:01 PM   Subscribe

A short history of Flash & the forgotten Flash Website movement. A transcript of a talk by Nathalie Lawhead about the era of Adobe Flash and the loss of cultural memory that came with the death of Flash as a medium.
I think this is really important to look at for what it means for us now.
What we have today in indiegames, the fact that it can exist on computers the way it does, is special. It’s something we should talk about preserving, and building a history of before it can be taken away by monopolies powerful enough to push for that.

Spaces like itch.io should certainly not be taken for granted.
Nathalie Lawhead, previously on MeFi:
posted by Kybard (66 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ah man I remember these! Why don't people make websites like this anymore? Arguably the toolsets now are much more mature than Flash ever was. I miss when websites tried to be a simulacra of something else. I miss confusing websites that mimic things like a Pipboy or those mini pixel sites. They were horribly unusable. Everything looks like it has been copied and pasted from Tufte. The early 2000s were like Islamic calligraphy to our Gutenberg web.
posted by geoff. at 6:18 PM on November 16 [9 favorites]


BlueMaxima's FlashPoint is the answer. A free collaborative download-on-demand archive of virtually every single Flash game and animation ever. Yes, even that one. (And if it doesn't have that one you can submit it!)
posted by Rhaomi at 6:19 PM on November 16 [23 favorites]


My professional career started about a year before Actionscript 4 was released. It was a revelation-- being able to control animated vector graphics with code and deploy to a browser-- in 1999?! Then Actionscript 5 was released based on something called ECMAScript. Wonder if that language has legs? So much history, so much good work (and terrible work, and "Loading..." screens, and complete lack of most of what made html useful and accessible) Anyway...

Here lies one whose code was writ in water
posted by gwint at 6:48 PM on November 16 [2 favorites]


Did someone say ECMAScript?
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 6:55 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]


I had no idea Flash ran on the Wii. Wild.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:01 PM on November 16


Who remembers working in the mobile handset industry pre-iPhone and Android? Flash was going to be the write-once-run-everywhere solution to save us from BREW, Symbian, whatever Java was working on, and a dozen other ideas.

There were companies licensing Adobe's player and porting them to all kinds of things. I got to see the source to one of those ports and it was...sorryjustthrewupinmymouthforsec...awful.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:11 PM on November 16 [5 favorites]


I used to develop Flash sites, and a lot of this talk resonated with me. Interestingly, last week Adobe insisted I uninstall the Flash player here on my Windows 10 machine because it was no longer going to be supported.

When FutureSplash showed up it was a game changer. (I realize now I want someone to pay me to write Flash screensavers again. I used to have a blast doing those.)
posted by maxwelton at 7:15 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]


I have a stupid history of putting way too much effort into computer products that die. I got good at HyperCard, and FileMaker web server language (CDML) and pretty good with Flash.
I wish I'd chosen better.
posted by cccorlew at 7:19 PM on November 16 [17 favorites]


Incidentally, there's a plugin-free Flash player that runs in browsers now, named Ruffle. I've tried out the demo player page with some downloaded Homestar Runner toons (including their brand new Halloween 2020 one) and it seems to run them just fine, without, you know, all the huge downsides of running Actual Flash Player (like having to crank up the volume to hear it over my computer's fan)
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:21 PM on November 16 [8 favorites]


I miss "Your Roommate Plays the Indigo Girls" so damn much.
posted by bendy at 7:26 PM on November 16 [15 favorites]


holy shit, bendy, me too. Every few years I think about it, go on a hunt, and remember that it's just gone.
posted by phooky at 7:45 PM on November 16 [5 favorites]


badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger mushROOM MUSHROOM
posted by biogeo at 7:48 PM on November 16 [31 favorites]


Many of the games I have worked on don't exist anymore. Due to crunch, frantic schedules, and bad habits, I didn't save as many local builds as I should have during the 'flash' era.

These past few weeks, I've been poking around, archiving the ones that are still lurking on the internet.

Unfortunately, mostly they're hosted on sketchy pirate sites. I've set up a linux laptop so I can visit them without risking my main PC, but I haven't been able to download them all successfully. I've gotten a bunch, but there are still many that have effectively disappeared from the web.

BlueMaxima has been excellent. Was able to save and replay a few of my favorites this way.

I have done a better job of archiving the mobile games, but this is a good reminder that I should make more backups, preferably right this minute. But I have to go to bed. So I'll wait and continue to risk that they'll disappear.

If you work on something, don't assume anyone else is going to ensure it sticks around, or that useful evidence of it will persist, no matter how popular it is at the moment. Thousands of people can see it a thing and it can still leave without much of a trace.
posted by ®@ at 7:52 PM on November 16 [8 favorites]


The poor archival of the Flash era does bug me. I don’t miss the platform itself that much, though...
posted by atoxyl at 7:58 PM on November 16


Badgers Badgers Badgers Badgers...

Flash, despite all its faults, really opened up the possibilities of the web.
posted by Windopaene at 8:35 PM on November 16 [6 favorites]


Man I was just thinking about some old popcap games I used to play, not sure if they even exist anymore but would play the heck out of rocket mania and seven seas back in the day.
posted by Carillon at 9:06 PM on November 16 [2 favorites]


bendy and phooky: The original SWF file survives on the Internet Archive! You should be able to download it and play it with that Ruffle demo if you no longer have Flash installed.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:29 PM on November 16 [9 favorites]


Rhaomi! Thank you! I'm enjoying it as we speak.
posted by bendy at 9:36 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]


And I made a 3:38 long screen capture of it.
posted by bendy at 9:48 PM on November 16


One of the things I am saddest is now gone: the original hell.com-sponsored collaborative art project at chaos.no-such.com. Does anyone remember that? It inspired me to create a whole artsy flash website in the early early 2000's. I wish I still had the .swf files. I foolishly had a script that detected whether flash was installed and redirected to a "get flash" page if it wasn't. The unanticipated result was that the wayback machine spider didn't get any of it except for the intro page.
posted by deadbilly at 10:21 PM on November 16 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: the original hell.com-sponsored collaborative art project at chaos.no-such.com.
posted by Windopaene at 10:26 PM on November 16 [3 favorites]


Looking a bit further, it looks like they did archive a fair amount of chaos.no-such.com. This is good news!
posted by deadbilly at 10:29 PM on November 16


In case you're just browsing their archived front page, here's a listing of all the pages from the site they've ever crawled -- plus you can filter it by "swf" using the box at the top!

Also in other news, FlashPoint just updated to v9.0, the last one before the plugin is phased out next month. It adds another 12,000+ games and animations to the library for a grand total of over 77,000 playable entries.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:00 PM on November 16 [2 favorites]


My first job out of college had me coding up UIs for small business accounting in Adobe Flex 3. I remember explaining it to someone as "you write something that's kinda like JavaScript but then you compile it into a Flash movie that you interact with in the browser" and everyone I knew at the time agreed that was a. gross and b. gnarly. To me, it was annoying because I liked being able to view source in the browser to figure out how other web devs were doing cool things, and you couldn't do that if you were just interacting with a swf.
posted by potrzebie at 11:15 PM on November 16 [2 favorites]


For a while, embedding text in a Flash file was the only way to get real fonts showing up on the browser. Took me forever to figure out when working on one project—"Wait, WHY is this header a .swf what is happening?"

I have all of the Homestar Runner DVDs, but they're not quite the same as holding down the tab key to see where the Easter egg animations were hiding...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:44 PM on November 16 [9 favorites]


As a former and still sometimes sysadmin, I am deeply, truly happy about the death of flash. I am also sad about the loss of cultural heritage, and hope archives like wayback manage to keep as much as possible. But at last, the massive security hole right in the heart of arguably the most exposed part of everyone's computer is about to finally die.

Seriously, flash was - and still is - riddled with security design flaws throughout, the amount of exploits that could take over your computer, found constantly, is just literally obscene. A CVE score of 9+ (10 is max) for a discovered vulnerability means it's basically a massive siren going off for sysadmins everywhere: drop everything, patch this right the fuck now - on everything - before your whole network gets eaten. For comparison, that well known horror show, the whole goddamn IE11 browser, has had 35. Flash has had 894 CVE10's to date (and nearly uncountable lesser vulnerabilities). And those are just the ones we know about.

And of course, the tightening restrictions of browsers to try and encourage people to migrate off flash, and especially to put pressure on websites to migrate off flash before its long announced death date, the sheer amount of teachers who I have had to help who don't understand why their *vitally important* teaching website has stopped working, and I have to explain, yet again, that flash is going away and they need to contact the vendor, no, there's nothing I can do to fix it, no, it's not our filtering software, I'm not being an arsehole, it's the browser companies that have made the (correct) decision to kill it, no I can't fix the browsers, I'm really sorry, but really, you do have to have all the students click this sequence of options to allow it every time they want to run it, yes I know it's hard, and it used to work, but it doesn't any more, and no, I can't fix it.

Oh god, will I and millions of IT professionals be celebrating when it's really, truly finally dead.

Ahem. Sorry for your loss.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 12:02 AM on November 17 [34 favorites]


The quarantine inspired me to have one last go at the GemCraft Flash games on (lol) Kongregate. They're fun! Especially if you like endless tower defense grinding like I do. The developer encourages everybody playing them to move to Steam where they've continued making games, but I have a perverse (and perhaps risky?) love of the original, for no good reason. Looking forward to digging into Flashpoint for other nostalgic timewasters.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 12:30 AM on November 17 [3 favorites]


Bring back Flash Friday!
posted by jontyjago at 1:44 AM on November 17 [11 favorites]


I don't know whether this was happening to anyone else, but there was a really annoying animated blue and white flame in the lower right corner of the very interesting article.

Reader View made the flames go away.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:03 AM on November 17


I worked at a company recently who still use a version of Oracle database for which the Oracle Enterprise Manager webpage (an official Oracle product to control the DB) requires Adobe Flash. Flat out doesn't work without it.

So maddening to have to update it seemingly every week, and re-enable it in the browser each time.
posted by faceplantingcheetah at 3:08 AM on November 17 [1 favorite]


I followed the gnash project through the 200Xs, and had high hopes that it would catch up with the proprietary original. Part of the problem I always had with Flash Web sites was that they didn't rely on a category of software (such as web browsers), but on one specific piece of proprietary software.

We no longer need to buy actual Microsoft Office to read those Word documents people chuck around, or Adobe Acrobat to read the PDF of a manual or paper. Instead we just rely on open standards and our preferences to pick a tool that can handle the file format, and we can generate compatible files that work on the original tools. Not so with Adobe Macromedia Shockwave Director (Flash Edition), whose monopoly on the player and editing tools for this file format ultimately deprived it of oxygen.

And yes, there were accessibility problems with Flash. Sometimes it could be better for some people (For example, making audio content available before browsers were very good at handling random media files: after all this is how YouTube got its start!), but by and large it prevented the browser's own accessibility tools (such as screen readers or alternate input devices) from functioning.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:18 AM on November 17 [7 favorites]


I wonder how much the collapse of arty websites also has to do with small screens. I remember going to the studio of a prospective Web development client who must have been the last guy in San Francisco to hear that it was no longer cool to build sites that looked like spaceship control panels, sections of the screen bubbling out into strange curving shapes that broke down into weird IMG tags that someone carved up in Photoshop.

Instead suddenly everything had to be a clean grid that could collapse into a little responsive stack of boxes. Graphic designers were watching that movie "Helvetica." Apple got rid of textures that looked like real corkboard or wood paneling. Anyhow thanks for the link and hoping this talk is part of a move back towards the skeuomorphism I have liked in computing since the Amiga.
posted by johngoren at 4:37 AM on November 17 [7 favorites]


And same for some good RealVideo/RealMedia videos out there. (If tiny and low-res). Very early glimpses of what we now get via the Youtube firehose. I think my favorite site in 1999/2000 was called Protein but I have yet to find any videos saved from there online now.
posted by thefool at 4:43 AM on November 17 [1 favorite]


Now to see if some of my old CD-Rs with a few Flash games and videos will still work....!
posted by thefool at 4:46 AM on November 17


*pours one out for golden age Homestar Runner, PopCap and Armor games, and all of Lore Sjoberg’s Flash content*
posted by darkstar at 4:49 AM on November 17 [13 favorites]


I started my web development career in 1999 and started working with Flash in summer of 2001. Flash was my bread and butter until 2010, and I was called on by employers and clients to create sites and apps that never would have been dreamed of without the vast ecosystem of experimental Flash websites. In that time I posted well over a hundred Flash games, toys, and experiments on my blog. I still have the .fla and Actionscript files for most of them. This article hits me right in the feels.
posted by JohnFromGR at 4:52 AM on November 17 [2 favorites]


What I find sad also is the post Flash state of browsers. I have an older i3 based laptop and the Internet is almost unusable on it. There are so many scripts on many sites these days the entire system would scroll to a halt and often fail to render a page.

The Flash player was hard on processors as well and the trade off of what was great with it ultimately wasn't worth it (security and performance aside, the lack of indexing for search engines (yes there were some crappy ways of attempting to get around that) was also a big factor in its death. But we were sold on the promise of the umbrella term of HTML5. Many great things of course but seeing Apple's presentation about battery power on the new M1 based Macs, it was rather telling that you can play more hours of video than you can browse the web.
posted by juiceCake at 4:54 AM on November 17 [5 favorites]


My partner is a math and physics teacher and there are so many excellent interactive explanatory graphics for math and physics that require Flash but are no longer actively maintained and have been bit-rotting for years, and their final doom is now very iminent.

Unfortunately coding something in HTML+JS is not very accessible to a physicist or mathematician or teacher, even if they have e.g. Python/C/R/Matlab coding skills used for physics/math. So web developers, we need to get out there and make new improved versions!
posted by thefool at 4:56 AM on November 17 [4 favorites]


Sadly, the end of Flash also means the demise of some very worthy sites. One of my favorites is/was The Theban Mapping Project, which included interactive maps and models of every known tomb in the Valley of the Kings. I visited it regularly.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:39 AM on November 17 [5 favorites]


The Flash player was hard on processors...

While true, I find its web-based gaming replacement, Unity, is just as hard, if not moreso, on systems. The fans in my iMac really spool-up whenever I play even the simplest Unity game.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on November 17 [1 favorite]


“ holding down the tab key to see where the Easter egg animations were hiding...”
Wait WHAT? How did I never know this. I always used to just scrub the pointer over the Homestar Runner video until I found links.

On the whole I find it hard to take the article seriously when the person complaining about how awesome and cool websites used to be with Flash also decorates their own site with the flickering blue flame. The flame is distracting. The point of the site is the content, not the decorations, if the decorations distract my attention from your content, why should I stay on your site? I mean I have done some silly things with my own website, but a long long time ago I read an article on A List Apart discussing accessibility, gave the site a once-over to improve said accessibility, and saw an immediate jump in Google search ranking. I was kind of sold at that point. Usability is not just making your site equitable, it’s good design. I liked flash games and enjoyed sites like Homestar Runner, but most of the interactions I ever had with flash were usability nightmares.

I’ve hit so many flash websites with mystery-meat navigation or completely unnecessary animations or unskippable videos that serve zero point. Yes a few of them were artsy “let’s see how far I can push this tech” experimental sites, but the vast VAST majority of them have been corporate training BS sites that I have to suffer through annually. (Including one JUST YESTERDAY that used Flash for the audio - thankfully I ignored the damned “activate flash” link and suffered through the training by reading the text.) Flash was used to create pixel-perfect designs because no one understood that web wasn’t print. (The designers, maybe... the clients/bosses asking for the design? Rarely.) As screen sizes and pixel depths increased these designs didn’t scale well. Accessibility and flash did not go together. Could they? Sure. But with so many plain HTML sites ignoring accessibility, how many flash-heavy sites gave it a second thought? It’s the same reason so many sites abused tables for layout. It was easy. Flexible and predictable layout was hard when CSS was still maturing and browser support was spotty. But these things improved, and improved rapidly.

The article really tries hard to blame Apple for burning flash to the ground and salting the earth upon which it lay, but Apple was not the reason. Steve Jobs may have been one of the first to pick up a torch and pitchfork but he had very good reasons, and people did not jump on the “flash must die” bandwagon out of loyalty to/love for Apple. Flash filled a niche that at first that became fillable in future by other, newer tech. Not necessarily better tech, but non-proprietary tech. First time visitors to most websites are not faced with being redirected to half a dozen third party sites to install plugins before they can view content. This is a good thing. It’s the same reason every browser worth its salt has an in-build PDF rendering engine. Loading up a third-party extension to do something the browser can do natively is silly. (Might as well blame Steve Jobs for killing the Acrobat plug-in, right?)

Like so many technologies before and since, flash was used and abused to do things it was never meant to do. But as I said, it was replaced piecemeal as other tech was created to do the same things. Webfont support, CSS menus, HTML5 video, all native to the browsers effectively took away 90% of what most sites used flash to accomplish. Consistency in rendering across modern browsers killed a lot of the rest - flash no longer needed to work around display inconsistencies in HTML/CSS rendering. The recognition that the designer has zero control over what size or shape the screen is dealt a huge blow to flash as well. I’m not even talking about mobile, if you are only designing for the desktop you can’t even assume you know the aspect ratio of the user’s screen (and a lot of people don’t run windows maximized even if you DO know). Once the majority of your use case is gone, it’s hard to sell the boss on paying for the flash license to make more content. This really needs to be emphasized. The article really misses on this one major point: Adobe didn’t kill flash because they wanted to. They agreed to let it die because it was not making them enough money to justify the support and development cycle any more. Adobe could give two shits about artsy websites or free games. They do very much care how many dollars they can wring out of their monopoly on so many fronts. The second flash became a net loss, the writing was on the wall. (Don’t think they only care about money? Look up what an Adobe CC license costs now, and compare to what it cost a few years ago before it became subscription only.)

Right now we have websites that make your computer fan go nuts not because of flash but because of the trillions of served-at-the-second-you-hit-load advertising scripts running in the background, and because so many sites load several dozen libraries to accomplish very simple results on screen. Blocking the ad scripts from running has become second-nature just like refusing to install or activate flash became second-nature to a lot of people. It is a technology filling a niche, until something better comes along. Will we see articles then lamenting how cool and simple to build websites used to be back when you could just drop in 6-8 JavaScript libraries and call it a day?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:33 AM on November 17 [8 favorites]


I get being nostalgic for the Old Web, but it still isn't a great article. Maybe not coincidentally, she talks a lot about Jobs' "Thoughts on Flash" but doesn't link to it; here it is, and here's the Wiki article with some context on it, including the responses. Worth noting: Jobs did relent on it, and Adobe killed Flash anyway.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:28 AM on November 17


I have 145 Kongpanions and I'm going to miss playing a few new games every week.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:46 AM on November 17 [5 favorites]


She does identify an aspect I had kind of forgotten, how much a web site was treated as A Thing. Check out this web site. What is it for? Doesn't matter, look how cool their site is, though.

Even without specifically the loss of Flash I think mobile web would have pushed that style of site away. The cool hover-state will go to waste if you can't hover over the buttons. Your layout sucks if we can't arbitrarily switch between portrait and landscape mode.

Come to think of it, for a little while a lot of the "check out this web site" thing switched over to focus on dynamic CSS. Look how slickly this site handles all these different aspect ratios.

Though, now apparently the solution for phones is to be absolutely terrible and then make it worse by filling a third of the screen with a "Download our App!" link.
posted by RobotHero at 8:57 AM on November 17 [5 favorites]


posted by blogeo "... mushROOM MUSHROOM"

Flash Opera
posted by filtergik at 9:21 AM on November 17


My professional career started about a year before ActionScript 4 was released.
Is this some reference I am missing? I started my engineering career with Flash/Actionscript, but AFAIR, ActionScript 1 came out around 2000, ActionScript 2 around 2003 and ActionScript 3 in 2006.

I had no idea Flash ran on the Wii. Wild.
I was one of three people that maintained the Flash YouTube app for the Wii up to a few years ago. It was fun, for Dwarf Fortress values of fun.

Flash/ActionScript had and still has tons of issues, but I still have not found a technology that allows someone to go from zero to great visual results so quickly, and had a gentle learning curve. It allowed a really cool mix of hand-drawn graphics and animations using the IDE to 100% 'code' apps that never had to see the IDE (or the official compiler). I have tried to teach artsy people to use modern frameworks to create visually striking web objects, but even the initial setup is such a confusing pain in the ass that we rarely make it to hello world before they give up in frustration and hire a coder.

Myself, I started as a graphic artist, doing everything in the timeline. From there I started copy-pasting small snippets of code into movie clips. Draw the rest of the fucking owl, and I was writing applications that were pushing the edge of what was possible on the web. When do NDAs expire? I worked in some of the largest Flash apps at the time, and made a good living for myself (and an exponentially better living for the investors) for over 10 years.

I share the same nostalgia and regret as others in this thread over lack of archives. All I have of my work are some screenshots.

I have some cool memories, like the time some people from Adobe wanted to talk to me to ask for feedback, since my app was huge and we kept sending Adobe bug reports and support requests. I explained what I was doing, and their answer was that Flash had not been designed to work like that and they had no idea how the app did not crash (something to do with abusing the player to be able to display stupidly large bitmaps, something to do with tricking the garbage collector and exceptions to be able to soft-reset the app before it crashed (other people's apps with any complexity would always crash after a few hours (so many memory leaks) but ours could have uptimes of weeks)).

I wish Adobe or someone else could have found a way to keep Flash relevant and secure, but such is life.

Now I see modern web apps developed by some of the brightest people, and I am seeing a lot of problems brewing. Fans on overdrive, 64GB of RAM to display some text and a simple UI, tons of libraries required to do simple things, bizantine development environments, and my pet peeve, using and implicitly trusting so much code written by random devs who all thonk they are experts on security and web practices.
posted by Dr. Curare at 10:44 AM on November 17 [6 favorites]


I have a stupid history of putting way too much effort into computer products that die.

Around the time of the supposedly forgotten Flash website movement, I was pretty enthusiastic about my HandSpring. So much better than a Palm Pilot!
posted by nickmark at 11:42 AM on November 17 [2 favorites]


I read an article on A List Apart discussing accessibility, gave the site a once-over to improve said accessibility, and saw an immediate jump in Google search ranking

Google search ranking is a black box and you can't read too much into it: accessibility is good, but the search ranking is mostly people who read the same articles about accessibility and wrote code that detects if you're following those guidelines. That's a feedback loop, not actual evidence.

Accessibility is good and a very real concern, but like, google search ranking is not a good proxy for anything of the sort.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:13 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


I still have not found a technology that allows someone to go from zero to great visual results so quickly, and had a gentle learning curve

I just did someone an animated Christmas card using Adobe Animate, the app formerly known as Flash, something I do rarely enough that I hit the learning curve each time. I must say it was fairly painless and generated useable HTML5, at least for a simple animation, so Flash isn't dead, it's just mutated into something else. There's lots of stuff you can do in Actionscript that you can't do in a Canvas-based file though.
posted by Grangousier at 12:33 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]


I used to produce comedy gameshows in SF with the entire 'board' run in flash so I could trigger music, scoring and text boxes. It was fun.

I remember this Japanese designer who made cool flash designs, including a snazzy clock. Probably found that website here a million internet years ago.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:42 PM on November 17


Twenty years ago a friend was in a position of sufficient seniority at Microsoft to be the person whose job was to tell Adobe that the days of Flash were numbered because MS was about to launch a better product and its name was Silverlight.

I still remember his expression as he told me. Two years earlier I'd worked for him (not at MS) on a completely brilliant internet appliance that had made no impact on an uncaring market before being executed and buried by an incoming CEO. He knew that a better product had nothing to do with superior technology.

Did Silverlight have better technology? I have no idea. I never looked.
posted by Hogshead at 12:43 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]


Silverlight had some pretty cool demos, but never gained any traction, and I don't think I ever tried building anything in it.

(Microsoft, like many other large tech companies (all of the ones I can think of) has a history of buying promising companies/products and then killing them, either inadvertently or intentionally. How many cool things has Google alone killed?)

I was at MS when Word was going to be the HTML editor of choice, when a new "illustrator-esque" program (codename Dali, I think) was going to turn Illustrator on its ear, CD-ROM titles would be published at the rate of one per day, etc., etc.
posted by maxwelton at 12:55 PM on November 17


I used flash for work from time to time. When I was just starting out in web dev in 199x I made a splash screen for a radio station. In government, some 'teach kids about flatting rights' was done in flash, but I never had the .flv file so I had to hack it to change the script whenever the law changed. I made a mini-video player for an architect friend-of-a-friends's final presentation. A couple of years later I wrote a not-particularly-good Escape the Room game (Flash's truest purpose IMHO) for a Jay Is Games competition (that someone has subsequently immortalised with a walkthrough on youTube) to learn some of AS3s object oriented bits.

I have long since left behind actual development for a living, but have been doing a Django hobby project for kicks recently, and I realised that AS3 Escape the Room project had actually made me unwittingly create a re-usable Model-View-Controller design pattern.

Flash was like an unwieldy swiss army knife. You could do a lot with it, with a lowish learning curve, but it would never quite fit perfectly in your pocket. I hope we see it's like again, and I really should go nosing around to see what the toolset state of play is in that space

PS the blue flame thing at the bottom of the page, like the various cursors, is just Natalie Lawhead's acid-retro aesthetic, very prevalent in her own games, creeping out into the page. As someone who has banged the accessibility drum for govt websites forever I can tell you exactly what's wrong with putting it there. But I secretly kind of love it, in its sheer unfetteredness.
posted by Sparx at 2:37 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


Yeah, seconding how cool the flames are.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 3:04 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]


Dr. Curare > the time some people from Adobe wanted to talk to me to ask for feedback, since my app was huge and we kept sending Adobe bug reports and support requests. I explained what I was doing, and their answer was that Flash had not been designed to work like that and they had no idea how the app did not crash

oh man flashbacks to when I was working at Spumco on internet cartoons and we were having a ton of crashes while trying to assemble separately-animated scenes into a single final file for distribution, despite a lot of time and energy sunk into figuring out the best practices for doing this sort of thing and avoiding asset name clashes and whatnot, their entire feedback was "Flash isn't for that, go use Director" and just, yeah, fuck you very much Macromedia (this was before MM got bought by Adobe), you're promoting this thing as an amazing tool for any kind of content and here we are pushing the limits of what can be done in this tool, thanks for all your help

(this was during the time discussed in the Buzzfeed article on John K and yes that is all true)
posted by egypturnash at 5:36 PM on November 17 [4 favorites]


I will give Adobe props (five words I never thought I’d string together in that order) for not simply ripping Flash from my computer with the final update. They gave me the choice of Delete or Update. I chose Update. There are still a few web game developers in Japan using Flash.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:04 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]


Man, I don't know what the hell Silverlight was/is supposed to do, but I remember some utterly frustrating battles with it. Probably my most vivid least favorite computer issues.
posted by Jacen at 7:40 PM on November 17


Man, I don't know what the hell Silverlight was/is supposed to do, but I remember some utterly frustrating battles with it. Probably my most vivid least favorite computer issues.

Silverlight in typical Microsoft fashion is the better thought out, easier to develop on and way late to the game developer friendly version of Flash. It probably solved all of Flash's security issues, retained all the good parts and was used by absolutely no one but Microsoft clients.

The reason I avoided TypeScript was solely because when Microsoft jumps onto something it isn't like it is bad, it is like when Martin Prince demonstrating the power plant he built is actually powering the room. (TypeScript is actually really good)
posted by geoff. at 7:48 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]


For those who miss "Your Roommate Plays the Indigo Girls," I've posted a 3:38 screen recording here, based on Rhaomi's comment.
posted by bendy at 9:05 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]


Netflix used silverlight for a while, at least on the Mac
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:45 AM on November 18 [3 favorites]


Silverlight was late to the party. People who wanted to do Flash type stuff were already doing it in Flash, so why go to the trouble of learning a whole new thing to do what they were already doing? I think Silverlight was really targeted to C#/.NET developers, who generally didn't care to do Flash type stuff anyway.

I'll drop this here, because it's one of those things about platform longevity that's been known for ages but that people keep discovering for the first time:

Thou shalt foreswear, renounce, and abjure the vile heresy which claimeth that "All the world's a VAX'', and have no commerce with the benighted heathens who cling to this barbarous belief, that the days of thy program may be long even though the days of thy current machine be short.
(From Henry Spencer's 10 Commandments for C Programmers.)

We're currently in a world of "all browsers are Chrome", which I expect to end as well as "all browsers are IE6" did.
posted by swr at 4:34 AM on November 18 [4 favorites]




Imperfectly, it seems -- when I tested the Ruffle player with Nanaca Crash! it had multiple issues, including the score glitching out and the menu music continuing to play over the game music. But it should work better for animation, and it's good to know there's yet another reliable archive for this stuff.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:08 PM on November 19


yeah, it's worth noting that Ruffle is apparently still pretty early in development, which makes it arguably all the more impressive
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:48 PM on November 19 [1 favorite]


All emulation is imperfect, but they'll keep the original files safe and the emulation will only improve over time. It's very good news!
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:31 PM on November 20 [2 favorites]


Announced today: The Internet Archive is now emulating Flash animations, games and toys

Oh ffs. It's like it's 2003 and I'm working at that fucking terrible financial startup with the drunk and abusive management team. So much time liberated with Yeti Sports: Pingu Throw and Mini-Putt. And yes, I really did have an /ayb folder on the server. Gonads and Strife much? Wheeeeeeee! Ran with the Badgers for so long that got so far out of sync they were back in sync again. Hyakugojyuuichi!! 'til ya puke.

Ruffle isn't perfect yet, but Flash was never perfect either. Glitches and sync issues were a thing, and I think nostalgia's making us gloss over its rough edges.
posted by scruss at 7:47 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]


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