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Lost in Translation:
What’s Next for Flash?

Christian Porri

Translated from the French
by Aviva Cashmira Kakar

Back in October 2000, the gurus of user experience (UX) design Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman stated that Adobe Flash (1996) had created a sort of “usability disease.”11 Jakob Nielsen, Flash: 99% Bad, (Nielsen/ Norman Group, 2000), As faithful defenders of a form of functionalism, they advocated for the abandonment of enriched media in order to recenter the Web solely upon content, without other sorts of inventions. In 2010, one heard equally peremptory affirmations when Steve Jobs called for the abolition of Flash.22 Steve Jobs, Thoughts on Flash, April 2010, No one would tolerate this technology any longer, despite all its contributions to a wide variety of creations over almost fifteen years: immersive web design, sophisticated animation, multimedia content, introductions, non-standard interactions, and the list goes on.

The end of the 2000s was a strange sort of turning point for the Web. On the one hand, the Net was progressively liberating itself from devices, operating systems and software. On the other, the monetization of user data confined it to services, platforms and e-commerce, proprietary models, and surveillance. By pointing out some real flaws in Flash (energy consumption, bugs, lack of support for touch screens), the actors in these new markets linked to the emergence of the mobile web (notably Apple iOS) were ridding themselves of a competing technology, certainly a proprietary one, but also one that offered rich and interactive content without a financial quid pro quo.33 See Nathalie Lawhead, A Short History of Flash & the Forgotten Flash Website Movement (when websites were “the new emerging art form”),, November 2020, From 2010 on, under their influence, web design became resolutely orientated in a mobile direction, closing its doors to Flash, even while, at the same moment, Adobe was inaugurating the Adobe Museum of Digital Media, a museum dedicated to digital, with a major emphasis on Flash content (offline since 2018).

As of the end of 2020, it will no longer be possible to load sites with Flash on the major web browsers. This technological abandonment is the final consequence of a movement initiated by the major players of the Internet, Adobe included, who aimed to bring about the definitive retirement of Flash, in total disregard for the existence of millions of websites. Only a few institutions, private for the most part, showed any sensitivity with regard to this legacy: the Web Design Museum,44 The Web Design Museum is an online platform that presents a selection of over 1600 websites conceived between 1991 and 2006, Internet Archive,