The Internet Archive — the non-profit digital library known for the Wayback Machine — announced that it will now preserve Flash animations and games, ahead of Adobe’s planned demise for the defunct web software at the end of 2020. The Archive will emulate the content so it plays as it used to, preserving critical elements of early internet culture for browsers that can no longer run them.
The Internet Archive says you can already browse over 1,000 games and animations that it’s saved, including classics like “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” and “All your base are belong to us”. The organization says emulation is made possible by an in-development Flash emulator called Ruffle that it’s incorporated into its system. While Ruffle’s developers say it isn’t currently compatible with a majority of Flash projects made after 2013, having any amount of access to the culture that defined many people’s adolescence and young adulthood is a win for preservation.
Flash was critical to creativity on the early web, turning drab pages of text and images into absolute nightmares of movement, but as The Internet Archive notes, Flash was really important because it was relatively easy to use:
Software allowed a beginner or novice to make surprisingly complicated and flexible graphic and sound shows that ran beautifully on web browsers without requiring deep knowledge of individual operating systems and programming languages.
Flash has been past its expiration date since 2017 when Adobe announced it was ending support, but the writing has been on the wall for even longer, starting with Apple’s announcement that it wouldn’t allow Flash on iOS in 2010. In the years following, Adobe decided to end support for Flash on mobile. Not long after, Chrome, Edge, and Safari chose to default to HTML5 whenever possible, leaving the old standby to rot.
With this new emulation tool in its tool belt, The Internet Archive should be equipped to serve as an ark for many endangered Flash creations. And it’s not alone: game publisher Kongregate also plans to continue to host Flash games on its site for the foreseeable future.