Investigating the Effects of the Adobe Flash Depreciation for Online Preservation Efforts 

Matilda Orona and Dr. Eric Kaltman

Abstract

Investigating the effects of the Adobe Flash depreciation for online preservation efforts.

The deprecation 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. The depreciation threatened an immense collective loss of creative works spanning over two decades. This caused a driven community of enthusiasts to act in an attempt to preserve access and playability of Flash works for future generations. Our investigation looks into what preservation efforts have been made and current challenges faced by the preservation community. 

Methodology
We organized a wide-ranging literature review gathered from articles, research papers, and relevant online conversation platforms, to establish a comprehensive view of the preservation efforts made by the community.

Preliminary Findings
The earliest Flash preservation and reverse engineering projects date to 2011. These efforts significantly increased in 2017 after Adobe’s deprecation announcement.

Our findings include an elaboration on the complexity of preserving deprecated proprietary platforms as users don’t have the right to modification. This causes preservation to become increasingly large-scale and complex. It has also exposed the risk of ephemerality that all software is subject to and ways to navigate it.

Unexpectedly, we also found that Flash is still maintained and licensed in Mainland China, despite being deprecated elsewhere. This is a phenomenon we’ve come to call “uneven deprecation”, and our research is now investigating the implications of regional software deprecation for preservation efforts. Adobe partnered with Zhong Cheng Network in 2018 to handle distribution in China. The country still uses Flash to a large extent, however the software is geo-blocked outside of its borders, rendering it unusable elsewhere. This has led to numerous compatibility challenges within China and abroad.

Presentation

Session 2 – 3:00p.m. – 4:15p.m.

Room B – Sierra 1422 

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