Investigating the Effects of Adobe Flash Deprecation for Online Preservation Efforts

Matilda Orona & Dr. Eric Kaltman


The discontinuation of Adobe Flash in December 2020 marked the end of an era for one of the most influential mediums of online interactive animations and games. Its depreciation threatened an immense collective loss of creative works spanning over two decades. This inspired a driven community of enthusiasts to act in an attempt to preserve access to and playability of Flash works for future generations. Our investigation provides an overview of the deprecation of the Adobe Flash platform and the resulting preservation and maintenance efforts undertaken by both its user community and commercial entities affected by Flash’s discontinuation.

We organized a wide-ranging literature review consisting of articles related to Flash’s deprecation, Adobe’s official documentation and communications, preservation community resources, and various forums for Flash community conversations including Newgrounds and Reddit.

Our research has unveiled critical insights into the complex discontinuation of Flash, a widely prevalent proprietary software, and its implications for historical preservation. Reimplementation efforts have been taking place since the 2010s, but the closed source nature of the software has impeded open-source development for almost a decade. Furthermore, Flash is still in active development within enterprise settings and regionally in mainland China, one of the only examples of a large-scale globally used software that has been disabled in all regions save a few. This has affected Chinese infrastructure, exposed users to malicious software and hampered international trade, while also enabling China to slow the advancement of open and secure standards like HTML5 and HTTPS, benefiting the state control apparatus.


Session 2

3:00pm – 4:30pm

Grand Salon


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