A bit of history

A great post on Artstechnica re-tracing the history of Flash.
Few technologies have yielded such divisive and widespread passion.


Next time you post a link please do add some personal comments and opinions or it would look like a bit too much like spam.

The first part of the article is accurate, funny that

Adobe passed on the deal, so FutureSplash Animator went to market in August 1996

I specifically remember that

A number of Microsoft product managers soon saw FutureSplash at a trade show and thought it was great. They decided they’d use it as an integral component of their new MSN Web portal, seemingly unaware that their multi-million-dollar product launch was reliant on a tiny company that, in Gay’s words, “was barely— barely —hanging on.”

at the time I was working on MSN Web portal France
and at the time the message was kind of like “use Flash instead of Gif for animation”

that part is even more important

In retrospect, joining Macromedia was the best thing that could have happened to the product. Some within the company were initially resistant to Flash and saw it as either a distraction from or competitor to Director, but Flash had support where it counted. Gay and his team could do what they wanted with it. It was just like before, when they were independent, except now Gay and Jackson had the backing of Macromedia’s sales and marketing machine to ensure Flash got the attention it needed in order to gather momentum.

Indeed, “joining Macromedia was the best thing that could have happened to the product”
but it is even better than that

at the time when you were already using Macromedia Director
you could definitively see how they learned from it and made things better
when they applied and merged those lessons to Flash

for example, you had this concept of timeline in Director
and when you compared to the the timeline in Flash

you could made observations, oh they reused that, improved this, changed that, etc.
it felt like cleaner and simpler

less powerful in some parts but leaner and lighter on many other parts

and so that made the following so true

Jackson and Zocher told Ars that the timing was perfect, too, because the Web had just become powerful enough to handle multimedia content while CD-ROMs—Macromedia’s previous focal point—were fading into the background. “Macromedia really was the master of that kind of tool and technology—a combination authoring tool and player,” noted Zocher. “They were the leaders in that. And as Director was to CD-ROM, Flash was to the Web.”

from a multimedia programmer side, you went from building Director app running from floppy disks to then much bigger project running from CD-Rom, and suddenly you had a more versatile tool that could publish the same kind of content to the web

golden era of multimedia :slight_smile:

and I think that’s the spirit that Flash inherited from Director

many other stuff I could comment on but no time, for those interested search how a site like Miniclip became popular (a simple very funny 1 viral SWF)

But for all that market dominance—all that success as a technology—Flash never made the transition from a de-facto standard to an actual one. Gradually, the real Web standards caught up. HTML and CSS got more powerful. Implementations of these and other Web standards like SVG and JavaScript got more consistent between browsers. And over time, Flash lost some of its competitive advantage on the Web.

yeah “real” web standards right?

I disagree there, it is more like the HTML and other standards were slow and completely not innovative

take SVG for example, it tried to compete with Flash as a standard and completely failed at the time, just displaying SVG cross-browser was problematic, animating it was out of question

From there is where the article turn to shit … and after that the comments are utter shit and bullshit
so I’ll stop commenting on the article itself

I’ll just say that as a general comment

usually when people hate on tech, or on a particular brand or a particular company, or a particular programming language, it just shows their own limitations and shortcomings

more crudely, if you are a C# dev and says “PHP sucks”
it does not show how a great C# dev you are
but instead shows how an immature dev you are in general


so Hacker News comments where you will see the same shit as the other comments

in short, because Flash is sure to be gone now every single asshole is piling on it and largely distort the reality, you can answer 1to1 to everyone of those comments but basically a waste of time as you will be seen as “trying too hard” and anyway not worth it as they’ll come back “we have the last laughs Flash is dead”, anyway…

among all those comments an interesting one

Creating a throwaway account to comment as I worked with the Flash team when things came to a close…

Who knows if Flash would still be around today, but there was a great deal of innovation happening on the Flash engine up until the point the Flash Runtime team was effectively dissolved, because of Apple’s decision. Up until that point, Adobe worked very close with Apple to recreate the Flash Platform from ground up with an entirely new engine. The new engine was vastly superior, and passed all of Apple’s requested criteria for performance and memory usage on iOS. The runtime overhead compared to native was astoundingly very close, and effectively negligible for game development. In fact it was so efficient that most people internally thought that the new Flash engine could outcompete Java for general purpose cross-platform runtime based on several internal benchmarks. Even the language was improved with ActionScript4 (including Generics support) and things like threading/parallelism, simd, etc support was a focus.

However, everything went south when Apple when, despite the new Flash engine exceeding their requested requirements, Apple decided at the last minute that they are pulling out of the agreement. While it was not explicitly said, it was implied that Apple thought Flash support may hinder native game development that then could be sold on the iOS store. Once Apple pulled out, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back as the massive investment into the new rewrite of the platform couldn’t be justified. It was really sad as we had brilliant engineers and researchers working for years on the rewrite. But, sometimes that’s life.

It’s not well known, but ActionScript 4 language specs was publicly released: https://github.com/adobe-research/ActionScript4

More info: http://www.rivellomultimediaconsulting.com/actionscript-4-revealed/

to take with a grain a salt, eg. a throwaway account could be anyone, etc.

but still, if true, this give some insights

  • “until the point the Flash Runtime team was effectively dissolved, because of Apple’s decision”
  • “it was so efficient that most people internally thought that the new Flash engine could outcompete Java for general purpose cross-platform runtime”

Now I already said it before but I was not a big fan of AS4, sure it was probably much faster but a lot of things were cut off to gain that speed, and even if I like something relatively fast, the gain of speed at all costs is imho not worth it.


I found that an interesting article! I was working at Philips in the late 90s on TV on-screen displays, and my boss wondered if we could get this new Macromedia animation thing working on our (8-bit) microcontrollers… not sure if that actually was Flash, but we dismissed this as fanciful at the time. Fast-forward a few years and you get Flash Platform technologies (Flash Lite for the Digital Home, and then AIR for TV) driving the UIs of a number of TVs and Set top boxes or providing the support for web-based video content, notably the YouView boxes in the UK and the Comcast X1 boxes in the US.

So much potential … and yet, quite often we were called in to help with performance issues. I particularly recall an automotive OEM who was getting slated for their in-car infotainment system with the really slow animations - their Flash development team had been told to expect desktop animation performance. To be fair, performance of the Flash Lite engine itself wasn’t too bad but (a) they were using AS2, and (b) when you start putting navigation systems, multimedia engines, and telematics systems all onto the same piece of embedded hardware, then everything slows down!

Anyway - a nice trip down memory lane and this at least explained why we see references to “Tin Can” in the code!


:+1: :smiley:

very interesting stuff @ajwfrost , thanks for sharing this and all the rest

I always find “war stories” from dev fascinating

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I started Flash with Flash 5. I think it was 2000-2001 or something, then eventually made the XHTMLTableRenderer component in Flash MX and got it on the DevNet 9 CD! :slight_smile:

Anyway, Flash is part of history regardless of the arm chair know it alls.

Peace to all that ran through the Macromedia age, that was a blast with Director 3D and the web, will never forget it.