What is Flash?

Flash was essentially a vector animation program capable of creation rich interactive animated media at the tiny file size. With a suite of drawing and animation tools onboard, together with a strong code-based event and frame control called ‘Action Script’ Flash was set to shake the world with Rich media that had previously only been available as animated GIFs.

‘Flash’ first came on the scene in1992. Its author was Macromedia – Adobe’s old adversary. Macromedia was instrumental in bringing about rich and diverse software for the web. At the time, Adobe was already globally known for their industry standard software, Photoshop, Premier and Illustrator being the most widely used, with After Effects about to be released. In April 2005, Adobe bought Macromedia for 3.4 billion dollars.

Easy single frame animation

The reason for Flash’s resounding success was its flexibility and versatility. It had the ability to allow animators to do single frame animations with onion skinning, so the user could see the previous and next frames ghosting over the current frame viewed. This made it very easy to draw your next frame with the changes in movement required. You could also drag the timeline, scrubbing through the frames to check the flow and continuity.

Enter Tweened Animation

Then there was the ability to use tweened animation, where the start, intermediate and end frames were all that was needed, with the rest of the frames being created by the software. At the time this revolutionary saving hours of work creating frames that were no longer needed.

It may surprise some people to know just how far Flash reached in media creation, not only the many games played via a web browser, but also responsible for many animated TV cartoon series and Mini-series on YouTube. Until recently, YouTube was using Flash Video as the standard, recently replacing it with HTML5.

The reason for this was due to its multiple export feature. If the result had to be interactive, then it would use the .swf extension which could be viewed on any browser with the installation of a small plugin. If it was non-interactive, the project could alternatively be exported as one of the many popular formats for video.

Apple’s decision to bury Flash

However, on April 29th, 2010 everything changed as Steve Jobs released his open letter stating his views as to why Apple would not be using Flash on any of their devices. Despite Adobe’s defensive comments, the decision went ahead. Many suspected that this was more to do with Apple’s self-protective policy more than actual problems with the software, but due to the sheer volume of sales that Apple dominated globally with their devices, the effect was terminal to Flash being used on browsers.

Unphased by Apples comments, many of the artists and game creators that were using Flash continued to use the software for their day-to-day needs, but the effect it had on the web was devastating, and gradually more and more people stopped using as part of their web development.

Flash is re-born

In 2015, Adobe released their new vector animation package Adobe Animate. Originally published as ‘Edge Animate,’ this was finally ditched to go with the new version of the software Adobe Animate. Essentially, with the same Flash engine behind the software only re-worked and improved. Though known by some as ‘Adobe Flash Animate,’ the word ‘Flash’ has been omitted from the name, no doubt due to Adobe carefully protecting its new brand from any unfounded past prejudice.

A New Beginning

With the new version retaining all of the power of the original with some extra features, only this time authoring to a scalable HTML5 canvas, suitable for responsive work on any device, the future is once again looking bright for Flash.

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