Adobe to stop distributing Flash by 2020

Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash service – which had long faced criticism for its cumbersome user experience and vulnerability to hacking – is finally set to fade into history.

At the end of 2020, the company will stop updating and distributing the online tool, a separate plug-in that improves graphically intensive activities for web surfers like video and playing games, Adobe said in a blog post Tuesday. Adobe, which made the change in collaboration with Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and other tech companies, is encouraging developers that use the Flash program to seek other options.

Once a key tool for accessing dynamic internet content, Flash has come under growing scrutiny with many of its functions now folded into web browsers through new open standards — eliminating the need to download the program separately. Apple’s Steve Jobs criticized the software in a 2010 open letter about its technical drawbacks, and in 2015, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, called for its demise.

Adobe acknowledged the progress made as open standards have matured, creating a viable alternative for web content. But it noted that it will also “remain at the forefront” of leading development of new web standards, and provide “best in class” animation and video tools.

“This is a logical step,” said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester Research, noting that Adobe already supports alternatives to Flash. “It’s the right time, and it makes sense.”

Through 2020, Adobe said it will continue to issue any needed security patches and keep Flash compatible with operating systems and web browsers, the company said. In addition, it will work on different services that improve graphics for online users. Other partners it’s working with include Microsoft Corp. and Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser.

The company said in November 2015 that it would support open standards like HTML5, which gives web browsers some of the features that Flash offers.

“Few technologies have had such a profound and positive impact in the internet era,” said  Govind Balakrishnan, vice president of product development, Adobe Creative Cloud, in a statement. “But Adobe has always been about reinvention and creativity. And we’re excited to help lead the next era of digital content creation.”

Now read: SARS eFiling will move away from Adobe Flash

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Adobe to stop distributing Flash by 2020