The SWF, or small web format, is dying off. It’s not news to most of us who work day in and day out, on the interwebs; but more often than not the average surfer doesn’t know or understand the significant change.

Adobe Flash, the program used to generate SWF animations, has been around since 1996; so when it was discontinued end of November 2015, it was a little like saying goodbye to an old friend. A long, protracted, arduous good-bye.

First the rumors.

One day, in college, I heard for the first time that Flash was going to be terminated. This was about 8 years ago, and it was not something I wanted to hear. The stress-inducing, hair-pullingly frustrating, but oh-so-rewarding program would cease to exist?

Then the battle with Apple, and Steve Job’s open letter on the subject in April of 2010 shed some light on the subject. This was why? All because Apple refused to make their products compatible with the format Flash generated? Though, in truth, not the only reason, it was a good target for my anger and I was strictly anti-Jobs at the time!

Next we got Adobe Edge, the original successor of the dying program, which came in with a bang and died in a flash (pun intended). It was the bargaining chip, an in-between option that allowed Adobe to keep a foothold in such an important and lucrative part of online marketing. Alas, it didn’t last, there were more problems arising than even its ancestor could boast.

Finally, Adobe Animate: the solution to all your HTML5 animation needs, kind of…

For the average web user, browser, Facebooker, the ongoing death of the SWF doesn’t change anything. It’s all in the scaffolding, happening behind the scenes. You might notice that certain sites, or publicities load faster. If you’re on an iPad you probably will stop getting the error message that Flash is not supported on your device, simply because you will no longer come across websites that are run with it. And online gamers will see more and more games developed through new technology.

So the SWF is gone?

Not quite: you can still use it, and develop files in the format using Animate. But you might as well not. Now, in a layout, which is almost identical to Flash, you can also work in HTML5 canvas mode: great for those of us who aren’t yet ready to leap into pure coding and SVG formatting, and more easily accessible worldwide.

So I’ve come to terms with the fact that Flash is dead. I have taken the time to mourn, and of course the time to adapt to the alternatives and new systems in place. Undoubtedly, we will get to the point where even these formats become obsolete, as the technology races on without us. For now we rely on programs like Unity, Animate, or work directly in HTML5 and JavaScript; let’s see if they’re still around in 5 years. The story of Adobe Flash is perhaps the epitome of what it means to survive in this virtual world. You either shape up, or you’re shipped home.

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