Tuesday, January 18

Flash, Yahoo Answers and other technologies that, for better or for worse, we lost in 2021 | Digital Transformation | Technology


Ferran Treaty Soler (Getty Images)

“Technology is like that. Everything has an end ”, explained to EL PAÍS Charlie Jackson a little over a year ago. The beginning of 2021 marked the end of the tool that he and Jonathan Gay enlightened twenty-five years earlier: Flash. This computer program for creating and viewing animations brought previously unthinkable movement, interaction and video games to the internet in the 1990s. But on January 1, Adobe stopped supporting the player integrated in the browsers, and brought us the first technological farewell of the year that is now ending. A flea could cycle through the calendar, jumping from month to month.

February came with the closure of the development division of Google’s video game platform, Stadia. “Creating the best games from scratch takes many years and a significant investment, and the cost is growing exponentially,” explained Phil Harrison in a entry posted on the Google blog. The closure of the giant’s two own studios in Los Angeles and Montreal was seen as a significant step back for the company in its commitment to the video game industry.

Microsoft closed the month of April with the announcement of a death to come: that of Calibri as the default font in Word or Powerpoint. The sans-serif typeface, which hit our screens in 2007 to replace the stale Times New Roman, is on its way to being replaced by one of five proposals commissioned by Microsoft from nine designers.

Sample of the default fonts that Microsoft is studying to implement.
Sample of the default fonts that Microsoft is studying to implement.

The farewell to Yahoo Answers, which closed on May 4, was understood as one more exhalation on the way to the last gasp of what was one of the greatest Internet giants. After 16 years of knowledge exchanges, the platform stopped admitting new questions or answers on May 20 and maintained the possibility for users to download its content until the end of June.

In June we learned that the Japanese robotics company Softbank had stopped making the iconic Pepper. According to exclusive According to Reuters, this android with big eyes had stopped being produced in 2020 and internal sources of the company pointed out that resuming the activity in this line would be too expensive. Pepper, born in 2014, introduced himself to the world as a robot capable of recognizing human emotions. It later became ubiquitous at fairs and events where it surprised attendees by following them with their eyes and giving them conversation.

The humanoid robot Pepper in a hotel designated to accommodate coronavirus patients in Tokyo.
The humanoid robot Pepper in a hotel designated to accommodate coronavirus patients in Tokyo.Issei Kato / Reuters

Those who exceeded 15 GB of storage in the services of Google Photos, Drive and Gmail saw in July how the bargain ended. The Mountain View giant then put an end to free unlimited storage for the section of high-quality images, which according to company data receives 28 billion photos and videos every new week. Those who need more space now have the option of hiring 100 GB for 1.99 euros per month or 19.99 euros per year; 200 GB, for 2.99 euros per month or 29.99 euros per year; or 2 TB, for 9.99 euros per month or 99.99 euros per year.

August ended a short life: that of the Twitter Fleets. These ephemeral publications, launched by the social network as a tweeting approach to Instagram stories, disappeared less than a year after their launch. Thus, the briefly enjoyed possibility of sharing text, photos, videos and even tweets on the platform was lost under the promise that they would be deleted after 24 hours.

The presentation of the latest Apple laptops in October confirmed the rumors: those in Cupertino were giving up the Touchbar. This touch bar that integrated the equipment of the previous generation just above the keyboard was also a short-lived bet. He disappeared five years after his birth.

In November we received the announcement that Facebook was going to stop using facial recognition in the photo tagging systems of its social network. We also learned that the company, already renamed Meta, was about to erase the records of 1 billion users. What that announcement did not include is that the algorithm trained with all those images is maintained and that the giant will still be able to develop new applications based on the processing of biometric data.

The last goodbye in December was that of an almost forgotten tool: the Google bar. This small rectangle allowed us to directly access the services of the giant from other browsers before the birth of Chrome. After almost 22 years, he disappeared soundlessly in early December. If they hadn’t noticed in Ars Technica, we wouldn’t even have mourned his death. The Google bar, which came to the internet (explorer) in December 2000, when Microsoft’s browser still had a monopoly on network access. In its final days, only the search form and login button worked.

Where do technologies go when they die? Not necessarily forgotten. The death of the Flash player, for example, did not close the door to the immensity of content created in the golden age of the tool. Already before the deadline set by Adobe, different platforms had emerged designed to preserve twenty years of art and video games. “It seems that the unstoppable march of progress will make new formats obsolete. That is why archiving and accessibility are important ”, Mike Welsh, head of the emulator named Ruffle, told EL PAÍS.

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