The death of a technical skill: Evidence from the demise of adobe flash

Abstract: In 2010, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would no longer support Adobe Flash, an at-the-time popular set of tools for creating Internet applications. In the years following Jobs’ announcement, the use of Flash declined precipitously. Using data from an online labor market, we study how the market for Flash skills evolved and how Flash programmers fared. The large negative shock in the demand for Flash skills led to large reductions in hours-worked, but almost no change in wages. The reason is that Flash programmers were highly elastic in their labor supply with respect to Flash. Former Flash developers quickly ``moved on” to other kinds of work requiring different skills. We conducted a survey of these Flash programmers to understand their decision-making. We find that workers are sufficiently forward-looking enough about the future of technologies that a negative demand shock can quickly become a supply shock, as workers abandon a skill with little perceived future.