That means what was once an interactive explainer of how the planes hit the World Trade Center or a visually-rich story on where some survivors of the attacks are now, at best, a non-functioning still image, or at worst, a gray box informing readers that “Adobe Flash player is no longer supported.”
Dan Pacheco, professor of practice and chair of journalism innovation at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, has experienced the issue firsthand. As an online producer for the Post’s website in the late 1990s and later for America Online, some of the work he helped build has disappeared.
“This is really about the problem of what I call the boneyard of the internet. Everything that’s not a piece of text or a flat picture is basically destined to rot and die when new methods of delivering the content replace it,” Pacheco told CNN Business. “I just feel like the internet is rotting at an even faster pace, ironically, because of innovation. It shouldn’t.”
Rise and fall of Flash
Adobe Flash played a critical role in the internet’s development by being the first tool that made it easy to create and view animations, games and videos online across nearly any browser and device. Animated stars of the early internet such as Charlie the Unicorn, Salad Fingers and the game Club Penguin were all brought to life thanks to Flash.
The software also helped journalism to evolve beyond print newspapers, TV and radio, ushering in an era of digital news coverage that used interactive maps, data visualizations and other novel ways of presenting information to audiences.
“Flash’s ease of use for creating interactive visualizations and explorable content shaped early experiments with web coverage, and particularly served as a preview for what adding dynamic elements to a story could provide,” Anastasia Salter, associate professor at the University of Central Florida and author of the book “Flash: Building the Interactive Web,” told CNN Business in an email.
Since then, a host of Flash-based content across the web has become inaccessible.
“Web preservationists have been sounding the alarm…