Flash is dead – long live Flash!

The Flash Player browser plug-in, on which GVF Training has relied for many years to deliver complex, interactive training, will no longer be enabled in browsers starting in 2021. In this post, I want to talk about why the Flash system was so powerful, why browser makers are dropping support, and how we are adapting the GVF Training program to a post-Flash world.

Back when browsers were much simpler, the early versions of Flash allowed animations to play in any browser. The free Flash Player, which users would install in their browser, would play any SWF file delivered by the website. A SWF file could contain a mix of text, vector graphics, bitmap graphics, video, audio, and bytecode, which was a condensed version of scripts written in Adobe’s AS3 language. Inside the player, a fast virtual machine (VM) ran the script and drew to the screen. This versatile system enabled high-quality graphics, excellent interactivity, compact downloads, and “write once, play anywhere” for the developer. The authoring system (originally Flash Pro, now called Adobe Animate) presented tools for both designers (artists) and developers (coders), so they could write very complex, object-oriented code to control or create beautiful on-screen graphics. The AS3 language is related to JavaScript but is superior in many respects.

So why is this amazing, comprehensive development and delivery system being phased out? At first, badly-prepared pages gave Flash a bad reputation. For example, if a developer wrote their AS3 script carelessly, it could crash — but users blamed Flash. Later, the concept of apps was gaining favor over web pages with plug ins, and Apple decided that it would prohibit the Flash Player from running on the iPad under the rationale of security concerns. Other mobile system providers followed suit, and eventually all the browser makers agreed to remove the Flash Player altogether, to be nominally replaced by HTML5 with JavaScript. Inevitably, Adobe began to scale back on development of the Flash infrastructure in favor of authoring tools for HTML5; meanwhile, browser makers focused on advances in JavaScript and graphics processing.

Unfortunately for developers of complex simulators and training materials like us, for many years the available HTML5/JavaScript tools lagged far behind the capabilities of the Flash ecosystem. Now, however, SatProf has built a new framework for conversion of existing courses and development of new materials for 2021 and beyond using current Web development tools in conjunction with Adobe Animate and Captivate. In this system we use Animate for graphical and timeline-based animation design, coupled with TypeScript and 3-D libraries for complex simulator scripts, and delivery via Captivate in SCORM course packages. For legacy SWFs, we are working with a specialist house on an automatic real-time JavaScript converter. Everything is integrated with SatProf’s custom transpiler/packager.

Our new framework offers new opportunities for course instructional design and thanks to the evolution of browser JavaScript, even faster simulator response. The Flash Player will soon go to its final resting place, but its legacy of versatility lives on in today’s new development and delivery architectures.

Join the Conversation

  1. Darlith Rolin Batchanou (GVF Examiner)

    Thanks for this update…

  2. Many thanks in the insight.

  3. Thank you very much for this important information.

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