Flash is no more. How will this affect your gambling experiences at online casinos? Find out right here.
If you gamble at online casinos, you’re probably familiar with Adobe Flash. It’s a web extension that has been used over the decades to display multimedia content like animations, videos, and games.
What made Flash so great as a plugin was that it allowed users to play games online without having to download any extra software. Everything was ready to display after the plugin loaded, and it was supremely convenient. But as mobile technology grew more prevalent, it became clear that this old way of doing things was incompatible with current digital trends.
This means that we’re reaching the end of an era — Dec. 31, 2020 was the final day of Flash’s effective existence. How did we get here, and how will this shift the online experience?
How Flash Once Dominated Online Gaming
The 1990s brought an explosion of technological advancement thanks to ever-widening access to the internet. But modem connections were slow, and web designers wanted to create snazzy, trendy websites that wouldn’t take 10 minutes to load.
FutureWave Software took one of their programs, which had originally been designed for drawing on digital tablets, and made it into a vector graphics animation tool. This allowed for animated images to easily load via modem connection. They shortened the name from FutureSplash Animator to Flash, and it dominated the internet.
By the late 1990s, more than 95% of computers that were online ran Flash (which was now run by Macromedia). The software became the backbone for major video players and websites. Amateur programmers saw the opportunity to use Flash to create games and then made entire hubs for people to upload their games for others to play.
The advantages of Flash were many. For people who wanted to design their own games, Flash was easy to use for prototyping projects. Instead of starting with code, designers could start with the visual design. It became a rapid-learning tool for many people who hadn’t yet learned to code but could pick it up as they went along.
For players, Flash made gaming a straightforward process — users didn’t have to worry about whether their computer’s specs were good enough to run the game. All they needed was a desktop computer and a modem.
Into the mid-2000s and beyond, Flash games grew from simple shoot-em-ups to side-scroller adventures like Alien Hominid. And do you remember the heady days of spending hours playing Bejeweled or Farmville? Those are all thanks to Flash.
In 2005, Adobe (famous for programs like Photoshop and Acrobat) purchased Macromedia for $3.4 billion, absorbing Flash into their suite of offerings.
Flash allowed for expansive innovation and access, but nothing can last forever, especially in the digital space.
Apple’s Mobile Products Didn’t Support Flash
The first iPhone didn’t support Adobe Flash in 2007, which seemed like a major omission at the time, as Apple was trying to make the ultimate portable computing device. But this trend continued through to the first iPad in 2010, and buyers were deeply confused.
Flash had been the de facto standard when it came to video playback and general web interactivity. By not including Flash support on the iPad in addition to the iPhone, Apple devices weren’t giving users full access to the web. Some predicted that this could mean the early death of Apple mobile devices.
In fact, Google jumped at the chance to be the better alternative to Apple devices by allowing Flash on Android devices. Even in 2010, they were promising full Flash support in their next mobile major operating system. They felt that they were allowing users to experience the web as publishers had intended them to view it rather than through a limited framework. But it didn’t quite work out that way after all.
The Limitations of Flash
Though Android swore that their latest devices could fully support Flash, that wasn’t actually the case. For example, if an Android user wanted to watch videos from Hulu via the Flash browser, they’d get an error message saying that the content wasn’t available on the mobile web.
This happened far too frequently on other video sites like Google TV that allegedly supported Flash. Even if videos or interactive elements did load on Android devices, they didn’t perform well. Flash just couldn’t work successfully on mobile — it was too desktop-heavy in its framework.
Another issue for Flash came from security concerns. When a software becomes ubiquitous, that also means that it becomes a giant target for malicious exploits. Unfortunately, Flash contained a lot of vulnerabilities that hackers took advantage of to gain remote access to other people’s computers.
Adobe managed to keep a lot of these vulnerabilities hush-hush, which was fine for them while they tried to fix the issue but didn’t help browser makers who were creating their products to be compatible with Flash — and essentially endangering their users’ data without even knowing it.
These vulnerabilities eventually became publicly known, but this meant that more people suddenly were aware of these weaknesses. This left the software open to new hacking attempts while Adobe tried to solve their problem.
Adobe did come up with a fix, but it was too little, too late. Major browsers like Mozilla and Chrome had already pulled support for the extension.
Steve Jobs Shared His ‘Thoughts on Flash’
In April 2010, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs penned an open letter criticizing the Adobe Flash platform and gave his reasons why Apple wouldn’t allow the software on their mobile devices despite its enormous relevance in contemporary software technology.
This drew a firestorm of attention and criticism, including from Adobe themselves. Their CEO said that Flash already couldn’t work on iOS, which was a limitation on Apple’s part and not Adobe’s.
A short time later, Apple revised its iPhone Developer Agreement with new restrictions, especially that only “approved” programming languages would be allowed in the App Store. Now, if an app-maker wanted to create a product that would work on both Android and Apple devices, they essentially had to use a different programming language beyond Flash to make it happen.
Adobe quickly called out Apple for engaging in anti-competitive behavior, but the Apple party line was that Flash was a security nightmare.
Over the years, this deplatforming by Apple as well as Flash’s ongoing mobile and security troubles forced changes from both web developers and Adobe.
Flash Websites Have Had To Shift
Currently, when users visit Flash-focused websites like some online casinos, they have to manually authorize their browser to allow Flash for a specific video or game. This allows Flash content to run, but you cannot update the plugin from those browsers. This has been happening on Chrome and Firefox since 2015 and on Microsoft’s browser (formerly Explorer, now Edge) since 2017.
In July 2017, Adobe announced that it would discontinue its Flash support by the end of 2020. This just solidified choices that browser makers were already making by not actively allowing Flash to run or update on their systems. Most developers were already starting to move to other open standards like HTML5, which has the advantage of being a web-based application that allowed developers to do more in-browser without even needing a plugin.
However, this all still means that people will be unable to access platforms running Flash by Jan. 1, 2021. Adobe has encouraged content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to new open formats.
What This Means for Online Casinos
Web browsers have become rather hostile to the idea of using Flash (blocking Flash-based ads, for example). Pair that with Adobe’s announcement three years prior to finally discontinuing Flash support, and it’s honestly surprising that so many American online casino games still rely on Flash to run. Any casino still running their no-download games via Flash will face several obstacles after Dec. 31, 2020.
Major online casino software developers like NetEnt had already begun converting their popular games from Flash to HTML5 starting in 2017. HTML5’s cross-platform abilities have given developers the chance to create mobile versions of desktop games and stay competitive in an increasingly mobile-centric arena.
Some developers haven’t yet converted classic games to the new HTML format, though, so it has been up to the players to use workarounds.
One current accommodation players have to make is to manually enable Flash in their browser’s settings for every online casino or game that still utilizes Flash. Otherwise, they’ll see an error message when they try to play the game.
Another option that some users have turned to is using more obscure web browsers like Puffin to use Flash on iOS devices. However, Puffin also stopped supporting Flash after 2020 because Adobe is officially killing the software.
The only option that might be left to users is to use jailbreak extensions. However, that tactic exposes people to more security issues and might not even work if every browser and operating system effectively scrapes out any sort of Flash support with new updates. So then, if users still want to hold on to old Flash content, they’ll have to forgo major updates just so they don’t lose access. That’s another considerable security issue and just an all-around bad idea.
So what will happen to online casinos that haven’t made the switch yet by Jan. 1, 2021? They’ll effectively die out. Games won’t load, and the entire website’s experience will be knee-capped.
There’s no official word yet on how such casinos might handle paying out any user accounts that still have credits, so players should probably try to cash out now just in case and see how their online casino of choice handles the 2021 tech changeover.
It Pays To Stay Ahead
In the end, this can all stand as a major lesson for tech developers. As much as a type of software seems indispensable, it never actually is. Advancements make everything shift and expire at breakneck speeds nowadays — when you look at it, Flash’s longevity for over two decades was a wild anomaly.
The tech sphere also had years to adapt and update, from seeing the writing on the wall after Steve Jobs wrote his “Thoughts on Flash” letter to witnessing more web browsers automatically blocking Flash from even operating. Anyone who refused to try new options like HTML5, WebGL, or WebAssembly were sticking their heads in the sand.
Flash is dead. But with more opportunities to try new cross-platform formats, the creativity that Flash originally enabled can continue to thrive.