You’ll soon be able to bid adieu to Flash. Adobe announced that it’s going to stop updating the previously ubiquitous plugin, which is used in games, video players, and many other aspects of the web, at the end of 2020. That’s good news for open standards–and for the security of countless people.
There was a time when basically every interactive element on a website relied on Flash. Open standards like HTML5 and WebGL have slowly but surely replaced Flash, however, especially on mobile devices. (Remember that late Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote a long note about why iOS devices didn’t support Flash back in 2010.) Many websites use these standards for their interactive elements instead of relying on Adobe’s proprietary tool.
But not everyone has abandoned Flash. W3Techs reports that the technology is still used in 6.3% of all websites, which is nothing to sneeze at. Aside from forcing people to install a plugin for content that could be presented using browser-supported standards like HTML5, this continued reliance on Flash also puts people at risk. The technology simply has too many vulnerabilities attackers can exploit to compromise their victims’ devices.
That’s why people like Facebook CSO Alex Stamos have called on Adobe to kill Flash since 2015. More recently, we criticized FedEx in January for encouraging its customers to enable Flash because doing so made them more vulnerable to attack, and Microsoft released critical security patchesrelated to the technology in March. A relic of the web’s early ages has caused significant problems for people living in the modern era.
Microsoft, Google, and other browser makers have partnered up to help web users transition from Flash. Their browsers will follow a similar timeline of asking you for permission to run Flash once every session in mid-to-late 2018; of disabling Flash by default in mid-to-late 2019; and of removing support for Flash entirely in mid-to-late 2020. By then, anyone using modern operating systems and browsers will no longer be able to use Flash.
Those efforts will culminate with Adobe ending Flash support and distribution by the end of 2020. The company plans to release security updates in the meantime, and you’ll be able to install Flash if your favorite sites are slow to jump to alternative technologies, but it won’t be long before Flash is completely gone. Adobe said this timeline could also be moved up in “certain geographies where unlicensed and outdated versions of Flash Player are being distributed.” The result will be a safer web for all the people who are unaware of Flash’s many, many different vulnerabilities.