Adobe Flash 2020: What You Need to Know

January 23, 2020

In 2017, Adobe announced that it would stop supporting or updating Flash, effectively killing it off by the end of 2020. So, what does this mean for you and your organization? We've outlined why Flash is being discontinued, what your alternatives are, as well as some ideas for moving forward to ensure your eLearning materials, websites, or courses are Flash end-of-life proof. 

Why Kill Flash?

Adobe Flash Player has been a popular, useful way to display interactive or multimedia online content like animations and ads for a very long time. As Adobe says, “... industries and businesses have been built around Flash technology – including gaming, education and video.” So why kill it, especially if it’ll have such a big impact on people’s websites, videos, eLearning materials, and more? 

The main reason Adobe has given is that there’s been an increase in different web formats and plugins (usually open standard ones like HTML5, Web Assembly or WebGL that don’t require licensing) that weren’t available or easily accessible when Flash Player was originally built. But the incompatibility of Flash with mobile devices, the poor security of the information sent or received, the lack of Flash support on iOS/Apple devices, and the fact that it uses a lot of device memory and power are also big reasons. It’s why many browsers have already stopped supporting Flash elements. 

What’s the Alternative to Flash?

HTML5 is probably your best option to replace Flash because, not only is it open standard, 

  • you don’t need an additional player to display HTML5 content across modern browsers
  • it’s device-independent, which means you can access eLearning materials and other web content built in HTML5 whether you’re on a tablet, computer, or mobile phone
  • it uses a lot less bandwidth than Flash, which means that it loads faster and is less of a challenge to access in low bandwidth locations
  • it’s a lot more secure 

Most web and eLearning authoring tools now publish to HTML5, so moving forward can be pretty simple. But what do you do about all your existing websites, materials, and courses that were already created in Flash not HTML5? Do you have any? How do you figure this out?

Where Do You Begin?

First, you’ll need to figure out what Flash elements you have; there are tools like Selenium that can do this, but you can also search your files for .SWF, .FLV, or .FLA in the file names. Next, you’ll need to decide how you want to move forward with your content. You have several different options at this point:

Convert Retire Refresh graphic

This whole process can be complicated and time consuming, but it’s also a great opportunity to take stock of your content by completing a thorough content audit to see what’s working and not working for you.

Some of the questions you should ask during this process: 

  • How many courses or websites do we have? What assets do they include?
  • What Flash elements do all our existing materials contain? 
  • How will we prioritize and decide what gets converted/retired/refreshed/replaced?
  • Who will do all of this? Do we need to hire an external vendor?
  • What media assets do we have (e.g., narration, video, animation, graphics)? Who has the original course files?
  • What is our budget and our timeline (beyond the December 2020 Flash end-of-life date)?
What Do You Do Next?

Once you’ve completed an upfront analysis or assessment of what you have and what you need to do, you can then build a proper plan to move forward, including deciding whether to use an in-house or external team to help convert, replace, retire or refresh your materials. Ultimately, you want to ensure your eLearning and training materials or courses are future and Flash end-of-life proof!