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Explaining Flash and Web Animation

Posted by TomFulp - April 16th, 2019

There's a lot of ongoing confusion about Flash's role in web animation so I've made this blog post as a reference point when it comes up in the future.

Flash was created in the late 1990s as a tool for animation and interactive media. Projects were exported as SWF files, which could be played in a desktop application or in a web browser, via the ubiquitous Flash plugin.

In 2010, Steve Jobs penned his Thoughts on Flash. Steve wanted to explain why iPhones would not be adding support for Flash but to avoid making it about computing power or competition with the app store, Steve went scorched earth. He had plenty of valid points, though; the Flash plugin was increasingly out of place as part of the open web.

One of the main points was that nothing the Flash plugin offers can't be replaced by HTML5, which is an open standard vs a closed system controlled by Adobe. This has lead to a lot of long-term confusion about Flash animation, however. For the past decade, I've continued to see people say how animators need to stop making animation in Flash and start making it with HTML5.

It is actually fine that animators continue to animate with Flash (now re-branded Adobe Animate). The only difference is now their animations must be shared in a video format (like MP4), rather than SWF.

So Flash animation never actually died, it just had to export to a format that doesn't require the Flash browser plugin.

On Newgrounds, we created Swivel and have made an ongoing effort to convert classic SWF animation to MP4 format. This is why you can view a lot of the animation on Newgrounds via your iPhone.

We more recently unveiled Newgrounds Player (Supporter only beta at the moment), a desktop player that integrates with the NG website to launch SWF files. You still earn medals and high scores in games, too!

Long-term we hope to emulate Flash in-browser but we wanted to have a solution ready in the near-term, since Flash plugin access is expected to become more hidden this July, before being removed from browsers completely in 2020.

In summary: It is 100% fine that animators are still animating in Flash. Don't tell them they need to animate in HTML5 because that doesn't make much sense. Much of the animation you enjoy on the web and even on TV is made with Flash / Adobe Animate.




Adobe Animate isn't used professionally as much as you think. There are much better tools like ToonBoom out there now that are less prone to bugs, freezing, and shutting down without warning. I still use Animate for some elements, but ultimately everything gets imported into After Effects before a final publish anyways.

I think it would be better to say the essence of flash animation is not gone. There is no (updated) Flash software anymore, but there are several animation tools that allow online indie creativity to shine.

animators need to ditch flash and start animating solely with CSS

Bizarre to hear you taking about Flash in the past tense ("projects WERE exported as SWF files"). Gotta say though, taking that extra step to preserve that older content through the Newgrounds Player is a very commendable thing to do. Without that, Flash content becoming inaccessible would be a modern-era burning of the Library of Alexandria.

Why don't we all just integrate to goanimate cmon lets stop kidding ourselves

@GallowJolt Heretic.

Well is there an alternate program for Abode flash (I forgot about the program that creates flash files that we all use and love today), if people want to create movies or games?

Can I still animate in mspaint and window movie maker?

A little off topic, but I was wondering if you saw this users newspost? https://ant0on.newgrounds.com/news/post/1049557

I thought it was a pretty cool opportunity for some artist who want to try something new and exciting.

Wow........ I started using Animate CC since last November! I liked it, Although I did the Yearly renewal Through Amazon instead of Monthly from Official Adobe Website. I stopped using Flash CS6 since 2016. Although, There are new tools in Animate CC that I haven't seen in previous Versions of Flash, I still enjoy making stuff in the same format. I'm gonna have to re-animate everything for my Upcoming Project. I may make an HD Remake of one of my Old Flash Series... Although that won't be released until Sometime in 2021.

@Magotrap Hey dude we all know its true, let's just drag and drop Newgrounds' entire community into the place

@GallowJolt Goddamned ironic humor. We are a thousand strong, it would take years to get each and everyone of us!

Stop amimating in flash.
Use cels,thats the good shit.
(This is joke)

There are more programs for creating animation and games than anyone would care to list, but for those well versed in Flash there's no reason to change. Your animations still convert to video easily like any other program would. At the end of the day Flash animation software is just another drawing program. It's not married to the plug-in like people think.

(This was in response to someone asking something but I think the original comment disappeared.)

Now that's a Flash Legacy :)

Thank you for the update !

What about smaller websites like this (http://sakupen.com/) or that (https://www.homestuck.com/story/1358?fl=1) that use flash predominately as a feature of their site? Are they screwed in terms of preservation?

@Nabella Well... Yes, and no. You could still preserve these by taking footage of you interacting with them and uploading it to sites like Youtube (which many people have done over the years with many Homestuck flash animations, thank god). But in terms of complete preservation... I'd say they're screwed, unless the owner converted their project into either a native format that will still play the files (like what NG is doing with the Newgrounds Player, if I have it right) or they recreated them entirely to a new format (HTML5, WebGL, etc). My point is that anything Flash-based from independent sites are very much at risk. Flash's browser support itself is going to be cut from most browsers within the next year or two.

@weirdflowers Well, looks like I'm gonna' start stockpiling some SWFs then...

It's sad to hear anyone talking about flash in a past tense sort of way. Web browsers dropping support of flash is practically going to erase 20 years of games and animations. It certainly nice to hear you guys still plan on supporting flash past 2020. AS3 is easily the language I've written the most code in over the year, certainly feels disheartening sometime to think of is as useless skill of mine.

But I suppose it not worth dwelling in the past. I wonder if you've ever though of hosting download only games. HTML 5 is Great but with tools like UE4 it's at best inconvenient to get working here.

Flash animators need to ditch Adobe and start animating only with ASCII art

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