It seems the fact that Apple’s iPad tablet not supporting Flash has made the Internet file player one of the most talked about aspect of Web development ever.  Even people that have never given any thought to what makes certain advertisements, videos and games work as they surf the Internet are thinking about as they discover their iPhones, iPod Touch players and iPads can’t access everything out there.  So one has to ask: What exactly is Flash?  Where did it come from?  Why is it so popular?

flash logoNow known as Adobe Flash, it started life as SmartSketch, a drawing program for PenPaint.  After that operating system failed, SmartSketch was re-worked to be a vector animation tool, and was re-branded as FutureSplash Animator and was made to work on multiple platforms.  In 1996 Macromedia purchased FutureSplash and contracted the name to “Flash”.

It was in 2005 when Adobe purchased Macromedia that it turned into Adobe Flash, and it was also around this time that Flash began to take off like a rocket around the Web.  While it had been use here and there, designers were really starting to discover just how versatile the program was becoming, and how it also allowed them to do a number of dynamic things with sites without using quite as much bandwidth as old methods would have used.

When YouTube launched and became a hit, many sites rushed to copy its success by putting themselves into various niches, and Flash was an easy way to encode videos that were uploaded by users, so as these sites spread across the Web, so did the use of Flash deepen.

Now with HTML5 gaining momentum, and its ability to play videos directly, we may see a reduction in the use of Flash here and there, but it’s probably going to take some time as it has become so prevalent in many corners of the Internet.  The success (or failure) of the iPad may also play a part in determine the speed with which this particular aspect of Web design stays with us.

So just remember every time you see an ad with video in it, watch a video on YouTube or play a lot of various games online, you are using something that has been around a lot longer than you might have realized … and that Steve Jobs hates it for some reason.