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

Ferran Traité Soler (Getty Images)

“Technology is like that. Everything has an end,” Charlie Jackson explained to Newsfresh just over a year ago. The beginning of 2021 marked the end of the tool he and Jonathan Gay birthed 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 1st, Adobe stopped giving support to the player that browsers integrated, and brought us the first technological farewell of the year that is now ending. A flea could go through the calendar jumping from month to month.

February came with the closure of the video game platform development division from Google, Stadia. “Building the best games from scratch takes many years and significant investment, and the cost is growing exponentially,” explained Phil Harrison in a Google blog post. The closure of the two studios that the giant had in Los Angeles and Montreal was seen as a significant step backwards 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 old 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.

The dismissal of Yahoo Answers, which closed on May 4, was understood as one more exhalation on the way to last gasp of what was one of the biggest Internet giants. After 16 years of knowledge exchanges, the platform stopped supporting new questions or answers on May 20 and kept 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 manufacturing the iconic Pepper. According to the Reuters exclusive, this big-eyed android had ceased production in 2020 and internal company sources pointed out that resuming activity on this line would be too expensive. Pepper, born in 2014, was presented to the world as a robot capable of recognizing human emotions. It later became ubiquitous in fairs and events where it surprised attendees by following them with their eyes and giving them a conversation.

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 ran out. The Mountain View giant then ended free unlimited storage for the high-quality images section, which according to company data receives 28 billion photos and videos every new week. Those who need more space now have the option of contracting 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 posts, launched by the social network as a tweeting approximation 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 rumours: those from Cupertino renounced the Touchbar. This touch bar that the previous generation equipment integrated 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 systems tagging photos from your social network. We also learned that the company, already renamed Meta, was preparing to delete 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 toolbar. This small rectangle allowed us to directly access the giant's services from other browsers before the birth of Chrome. After nearly 22 years, he quietly disappeared in early December. If they hadn't noticed at 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 die? Not necessarily forgotten. The death of the Flash player, for example, did not close the door on the immensity of the 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 old ones. That's why archiving and accessibility are important,” Mike Welsh, head of the emulator named Ruffle, told Newsfresh.

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