Adobe Flash

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Adobe Flash
File:Adobe Flash CS4.svg
Adobe Flash CS4 Professional (10.0) under Mac OS X 10.6.
Developer(s) Adobe Systems (formerly by Macromedia)
Written in C++
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris
Type Multimedia
License Proprietary EULA
Website Adobe Flash Professional Homepage

Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash) is a multimedia platform originally acquired by Macromedia and currently developed and distributed by Adobe Systems. Since its introduction in 1996, Flash has become a popular method for adding animation and interactivity to web pages. Flash is commonly used to create animation, advertisements, and various web page Flash components, to integrate video into web pages, and more recently, to develop rich Internet applications.

Flash can manipulate vector and raster graphics, and supports bidirectional streaming of audio and video. It contains a scripting language called ActionScript. Several software products, systems, and devices are able to create or display Flash content, including Adobe Flash Player, which is available free for most common web browsers, some mobile phones and for other electronic devices (using Flash Lite). The Adobe Flash Professional multimedia authoring program is used to create content for the Adobe Engagement Platform, such as web applications, games and movies, and content for mobile phones and other embedded devices.

Files in the SWF format, traditionally called "ShockWave Flash" movies, "Flash movies" or "Flash games", usually have a .swf file extension and may be an object of a web page, strictly "played" in a standalone Flash Player, or incorporated into a Projector, a self-executing Flash movie (with the .exe extension in Microsoft Windows or .hqx for Macintosh). Flash Video files[spec 1] have a .flv file extension and are either used from within .swf files or played through a flv-aware player, such as VLC, or QuickTime and Windows Media Player with external codecs added.



The precursor to the Flash application was SmartSketch, a drawing application for pen computers running the PenPoint OS developed by Jonathan Gay, who began working on it in college and extended the idea for Silicon Beach Software and its successors.[1][2]

When PenPoint failed in the marketplace, SmartSketch was ported to Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. With the Internet becoming more popular, SmartSketch was re-released as FutureSplash, a vector-based web animation in competition with Macromedia Shockwave. In 1995, SmartSketch was further modified with frame-by-frame animation features and re-released as FutureSplash Animator on multiple platforms.[3] The product was offered to Adobe and used by Microsoft in its early work with the Internet (MSN). In 1996, FutureSplash was acquired by Macromedia and released as Flash, contracting "Future" and "Splash".

Release Year Description
FutureSplash Animator 1996 initial version of Flash with basic editing tools and a timeline
Macromedia Flash 1 1996 a Macromedia re-branded version of the FutureSplash Animator
Macromedia Flash 2 1997 Released with Flash Player 2, new features included: the object library
Macromedia Flash 3 1998 Released with Flash Player 3, new features included: the movieclip element, JavaScript plug-in integration, transparency and an external stand alone player
Macromedia Flash 4 1999 Released with Flash Player 4, new features included: internal variables, an input field, advanced ActionScript, and streaming MP3
Macromedia Flash 5 2000 Released with Flash Player 5, new features included: ActionScript 1.0 (based on ECMAScript, making it very similar to JavaScript in syntax), XML support, Smartclips (the precursor to components in Flash), HTML text formatting added for dynamic text
Macromedia Flash MX 2002 Released with Flash Player 6, new features included: a video codec (Sorenson Spark), Unicode, v1 UI Components, compression, ActionScript vector drawing API
Macromedia Flash MX 2004 2003 Released with Flash Player 7, new features included: Actionscript 2.0 (which enabled an object-oriented programming model for Flash, although it lacked the Script assist function of other versions, meaning Actionscript could only be typed out manually), behaviors, extensibility layer (JSAPI), alias text support, timeline effects. Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004 included all Flash MX 2004 features, plus: Screens (forms for non-linear state-based development and slides for organizing content in a linear slide format like PowerPoint), web services integration, video import wizard, Media Playback components (which encapsulate a complete MP3 and/or FLV player in a component that may be placed in an SWF), Data components (DataSet, XMLConnector, WebServicesConnector, XUpdateResolver, etc) and data binding APIs, the Project Panel, v2 UI components, and Transition class libraries.
Macromedia Flash 8 2005 Macromedia Flash Basic 8, a less feature-rich version of the Flash authoring tool targeted at new users who only want to do basic drawing, animation and interactivity. Released with Flash Player 8, this version of the product has limited support for video and advanced graphical and animation effects. Macromedia Flash Professional 8 added features focused on expressiveness, quality, video, and mobile authoring. New features included Filters and blend modes, easing control for animation, enhanced stroke properties (caps and joins), object-based drawing mode, run-time bitmap caching, FlashType advanced anti-aliasing for text, On2 VP6 advanced video codec, support for alpha transparency in video, a stand-alone encoder and advanced video importer, cue point support in FLV files, an advanced video playback component, and an interactive mobile device emulator.
Adobe Flash CS3 Professional 2007 Flash CS3 is the first version of Flash released under the Adobe name. CS3 features full support for ActionScript 3.0, allows entire applications to be converted into ActionScript, adds better integration with other Adobe products such as Adobe Photoshop, and also provides better Vector drawing behavior, becoming more like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Fireworks.
Adobe Flash CS4 Professional 2008 Contains inverse kinematics (bones), basic 3D object manipulation, object-based animation, a text engine, and further expansions to ActionScript 3.0. CS4 allows the developer to create animations with many features absent in previous versions.
Adobe Flash CS5 Professional 2010? Flash CS5 is not yet released.

Recent developments

Adobe Labs (previously called Macromedia Labs) is a source for news and pre-release versions of emerging products and technologies from Adobe. Most innovations, such as Flash 9, Flex 3, and ActionScript 3.0 have all been discussed and/or trialled on the site.

One area Adobe is focusing on (as of February 2009) is the deployment of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). To this end, they released Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), a cross-platform runtime environment which can be used to build, using Adobe Flash, rich Internet applications that can be deployed as a desktop application. It recently surpassed 100 million installations worldwide.[4]

Two additional components designed for large-scale implementation have been proposed by Adobe for future releases of Flash: first, the option to require an ad to be played in full before the main video piece is played; and second, the integration of digital rights management (DRM) capabilities. This way Adobe can give companies the option to link an advertisement with content and make sure that both are played and remain unchanged.[5] The current status of these two projects is unclear.[dated info]

Flash Player for smart phones is expected to be available to handset manufacturers at the end of 2009.[6]

Open Screen Project

On May 1, 2008 Adobe announced Open Screen Project, which hopes to provide a consistent application interface across devices such as personal computers, mobile devices and consumer electronics.[7] When the project was announced, several goals were outlined: the abolition of licensing fees for Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Integrated Runtime, the removal of restrictions on the use of the Shockwave Flash (SWF) and Flash Video (FLV) file format, the publishing of application programming interfaces for porting Flash to new devices and the publishing of The Flash Cast protocol and Action Message Format (AMF), which let Flash applications receive information from remote databases.[7]

As of February 2009, the specifications removing the restrictions on the use of SWF and FLV/F4V specs have been published.[8] The Flash Cast protocol - now known as the Mobile Content Delivery Protocol - and AMF protocols have also been made available,[8] with AMF available as an open source implementation, BlazeDS. Work on the device porting layers is in the early stages. Adobe intends to remove the licensing fees for Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices at their release for the Open Screen Project.

The list of mobile device providers who have joined the project includes Palm, Motorola and Nokia,[9] who, together with Adobe, have announced a $10 million Open Screen Project fund.[10]

Programming language

Initially focused on animation, early versions of Flash content offered few interactivity features and thus had very limited scripting capability.

More recent versions include ActionScript, an implementation of the ECMAScript standard which therefore has the same syntax as JavaScript, but in a different programming framework with a different associated set of class libraries. ActionScript is used to create almost all of the interactivity (buttons, text entry fields, drop down menus) seen in many Flash applications.

Flash MX 2004 introduced ActionScript 2.0, a scripting programming language more suited to the development of Flash applications. It is often possible to save time by scripting something rather than animating it, which usually also enables a higher level of flexibility when editing.

Since the arrival of the Flash Player 9 alpha (in 2006) a newer version of ActionScript has been released, ActionScript 3.0. ActionScript 3.0 is an object oriented programming language allowing for more control and code reusability when building complex Flash applications.

Of late, the Flash libraries are being used with the XML capabilities of the browser to render rich content in the browser. This technology is known as Asynchronous Flash and XML, much like AJAX. This technology of Asynchronous Flash and XML has pushed for a more formal approach of this technology called Adobe Flex, which uses the Flash runtime to build Rich Internet Applications.

This technology can be used in players like those on MySpace and YouTube, to provide protection for the content that the Flash calls, like MP3s and videos. The content called is streamed - or passes - through the Flash files, making downloading for storage a difficult task for most people. Programs such as Real Player Downloader and browser extensions like Firebug can trace the XML files. Browser extensions like Video DownloadHelper can intercept the requests and download the streamed video.

ActionScript code protection

Often, Flash developers will decide that while they desire the advantages that Flash affords them in the areas of animation and interactivity, they do not wish to expose their code to the world. However, as with all intermediate language compiled code, once a .swf file is saved locally, it can be decompiled into its source code and assets. Some decompilers are capable of nearly full reconstruction of the original source file, down to the actual code that was used during creation (although results vary on a case-by-case basis).[11][12][13]

In opposition to the decompilers, ActionScript obfuscators have been introduced to solve this problem. Higher-quality obfuscators implement lexical transformations — such as identifier renaming, control flow transformation, and data abstraction transformation — that make it harder for decompilers to generate output likely to be useful to a human. Lower-quality obfuscators insert traps for decompilers.


Format and plug-in

Compared to other plug-ins such as Java, Acrobat Reader, QuickTime, or Windows Media Player, the Flash Player has a small install size, quick download time, and fast initialization time. However, care must be taken to detect and embed the Flash Player in (X)HTML in a W3C-compliant way.[citation needed]Template:Why A simple, widely-used workaround is provided below:

<object data="movie.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="500" height="500">
    <param name="movie" value="movie.swf" />

More information on how to detect and embed Flash Objects in a W3C compliant way is provided in the xSWF description.

The use of vector graphics combined with program code allows Flash files to be smaller — and thus for streams to use less bandwidth — than the corresponding bitmaps or video clips. For content in a single format (such as just text, video, or audio), other alternatives may provide better performance and consume less CPU power than the corresponding Flash movie, for example when using transparency or making large screen updates such as photographic or text fades.

In addition to a vector-rendering engine, the Flash Player includes a virtual machine called the ActionScript Virtual Machine (AVM) for scripting interactivity at run-time, support for video, MP3-based audio, and bitmap graphics. As of Flash Player 8, it offers two video codecs: On2 Technologies VP6 and Sorenson Spark, and run-time support for JPEG, Progressive JPEG, PNG, and GIF. In the next version, Flash is slated to use a just-in-time compiler for the ActionScript engine.

Installed user base

Flash as a format has become very widespread on the desktop market and created a market dominance. General web statistics company estimates availability at 95%,[14] while Adobe claims that 98 percent of US Web users and 99.3 percent of all Internet desktop users have the Flash Player installed,[15][16] with 82%-87%[17] (depending on region) having the latest version. Numbers vary depending on the detection scheme and research demographics.

The Adobe Flash Player exists for a variety of systems and devices: Windows, Mac OS 9/X, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, Pocket PC, OS/2, QNX, Symbian, Palm OS, BeOS, and IRIX). Though, "Adobe's Flash implementation for Linux is lousy."[18] Officially, Adobe Flash only supports 32-bit platforms, although experimental 64-bit support has been available for Linux since November 2008.[19] For compatibility with devices (embedded systems), see Macromedia Flash Lite.

Open standard alternatives

The W3C's SVG and SMIL standards are seen as the closest competitors of Flash.[20] Adobe formerly developed and distributed the 'Adobe SVG Viewer' client plug-in for MS Internet Explorer, but discontinued support and distribution on January 1, 2009.[21] It has been noted by industry commentators that this was probably no coincidence at a time when Adobe moved from competing with Macromedia's Flash to owning the technology itself.[22] Meanwhile, Opera has supported SVG since version 8 and Safari has since version 3,[23] and Firefox's built-in support for SVG continues to grow.[24][25]

UIRA was a free software project that intended to become a complete replacement for Adobe Flash. The project collapsed in mid 2007, though people are now discussing reviving or continuing it,[26] and a few other projects like Ajax Animator still exist.

Third-party implementation


In October 1998, Macromedia disclosed the Flash Version 3 Specification to the world on its website. It did this in response to many new and often semi-open formats competing with SWF, such as Xara's Flare and Sharp's Extended Vector Animation formats. Several developers quickly created a C library for producing SWF. In February 1999, the company introduced MorphInk 99, the first third-party program to create SWF files. Macromedia also hired Middlesoft to create a freely available developers' kit for the SWF file format versions 3 to 5.

Macromedia made the Flash Files specifications for versions 6 and later available only under a non-disclosure agreement, but they are widely available from various sites.

In April 2006, the Flash SWF file format specification was released with details on the then newest version format (Flash 8). Although still lacking specific information on the incorporated video compression formats (On2, Sorenson Spark, etc.), this new documentation covered all the new features offered in Flash v8 including new ActionScript commands, expressive filter controls, and so on. The file format specification document is offered only to developers who agree to a license agreement that permits them to use the specifications only to develop programs that can export to the Flash file format. The license forbids the use of the specifications to create programs that can be used for playback of Flash files. The Flash 9 specification was made available under similar restrictions.[27]

In June 2009, Adobe launched the Open Screen Project (Adobe link), which made the SWF specification available without restrictions. Previously, developers couldn't use the specification for making SWF-compatible players, but only for making SWF-exporting authoring software. The specification remains incomplete, however, as it does not include any details regarding Sorenson Spark.[28]


Since Flash files do not depend on an open standard such as SVG, this reduces the incentive for non-commercial software to support the format, although there are several third party tools which use and generate the SWF file format. Flash Player cannot ship as part of a pure open source, or completely free operating system, as its distribution is bound to the Macromedia Licensing Program and subject to approval.

There is, as of late 2008, no complete free software replacement which offers all the functionality of the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

Gnash is an active project that aims to create a free player and browser plugin for the Adobe Flash file format and so provide a free alternative to the Adobe Flash Player under the GNU General Public License. Despite potential patent worries because of the proprietary nature of the files involved,[29] Gnash supports most SWF v7 features and some SWF v8 and v9.[30][31] Gnash runs on Windows, Linux and other operating systems on 32-bit, 64-bit and other architectures.

Swfdec is another open-source flash player available for Linux, FreeBSD and OpenBSD. See also SWFOpener.

Scaleform GFx is a commercial alternative Flash player that features full hardware acceleration using the GPU and has high conformance up to Flash 8 and AS2. Scaleform GFx is licensed as a game middleware solution and used by many PC and console 3D games for user interfaces, HUDs, mini games, and video playback.

rtmpdump is an open source software implementation of an RTMP client, Flash's own streaming protocol. rtmpdump was removed from Sourceforge on request by Adobe.[32]

flvstreamer is an open source software implementation of an RTMP client, Flash's own streaming protocol. It is a fork of rtmpdump which has all the cryptographic support (i.e. RTMPE and SWF verification) removed from the code.


Open Source projects like Ajax Animator and the (now defunct) UIRA aim to create a flash development environment, complete with a graphical user environment. Alternatively, programs such as swfmill, SWFTools, and MTASC provide tools to create SWF files, but do so by compiling text, actionscript or XML files into Flash animations. It is also possible to create SWF files programmatically using the Ming library, which has interfaces for C, PHP, C++, Perl, Python, and Ruby. haXe is an open source, high-level object-oriented programming language geared towards web-content creation that can compile Flash files.

Many shareware developers produced Flash creation tools and sold them for under US$50 between 2000 and 2002. In 2003 competition and the emergence of free Flash creation tools had driven many third-party Flash-creation tool-makers out of the market, allowing the remaining developers to raise their prices, although many of the products still cost less than US$100 and support ActionScript. As for open source tools, KToon can edit vectors and generate SWF, but its interface is very different from Macromedia's. Another, more recent example of a Flash creation tool is SWiSH Max made by an ex-employee of Macromedia. Toon Boom Technologies also sells a traditional animation tool, based on Flash.

In addition, several programs create .swf-compliant files as output from their programs. Among the most famous of these are Screencast tools, which leverage the ability to do lossless compression and playback of captured screen content in order to produce demos, tutorials, or software simulations of programs. These programs are typically designed for use by non-programmers, and create Flash content quickly and easily, but cannot actually edit the underlying Flash code (i.e. the tweening and transforms, etc.) Screencam is perhaps the oldest screencasting authoring tool to adopt Flash as the preferred output format, having been developed since the mid-90s. That screencasting programs have adopted Flash as the preferred output is testament to Flash's presence as a ubiquitous cross-platform animation file format.

Other tools are focused on creating specific types of Flash content. Anime Studio is a 2D animation software specialized for character animation which creates SWF files. Moyea Web Player is focus on creating customized web-based flash video player. Express Animator is similarly aimed specifically at animators. Question Writer publishes its quizzes to Flash file format.

Users who are not programmers or web designers will also find on-line tools that allow them to build full Flash-based web sites. One of the oldest services available (1998) is FlashToGo. Such companies provide a wide variety of pre-built models (templates) associated to a Content Management System that empowers users to easily build, edit and publish their web sites. Other sites, that allows for greater customization and design flexibility are and CirclePad.

Adobe wrote a software package called Adobe LiveMotion, designed to create interactive animation content and export it to a variety of formats, including SWF. LiveMotion went through two major releases, but failed to gain any notable user base.

In February 2003, Macromedia purchased Presedia, which had developed a Flash authoring tool that automatically converted PowerPoint files into Flash. Macromedia subsequently released the new product as Breeze, which included many new enhancements. In addition, (as of version 2) Apple's Keynote presentation software also allows users to create interactive presentations and export to SWF.

Related file formats and extensions

Extension Explanation
.swf .swf files are completed, compiled and published files that cannot be edited with Adobe Flash. However, many '.swf decompilers' do exist. Attempting to import .swf files using Flash allows it to retrieve some assets from the .swf, but not all.
.FXG FXG is an unified xml file format being developed by Adobe for Flex, Flash, Photoshop and other applications.
.fla .fla files contain source material for the Flash application. Flash authoring software can edit FLA files and compile them into .swf files. The Flash source file format is currently a binary file format based on the Microsoft compound file format.
.flax is an xml based version of .fla originally slated for release in CS4 but now be due in CS5. It's essentially a zip file that contains an xml file to describe its contents and a folder for assets. This will make it possible to edit Library items without opening Flash authoring and because it's not binary will no longer cause conflicts when committed to version control systems.
.xfl .xfl files are XML-based project files that are equivalent to the binary .fla format. Flash authoring software uses XFL as an exchange format in Flash CS4. It imports XFL files that are exported from InDesign and AfterEffects.
.as .as files contain ActionScript source code in simple source files. FLA files can also contain Actionscript code directly, but separate external .as files often emerge for structural reasons, or to expose the code to versioning applications. They sometimes use the extension .actionscript
.mxml .mxml files are used in conjunction with ActionScript files (and .css files), and offer a markup-language-style syntax (like HTML) for designing the GUI in Flex. Each MXML file creates a new class that extends the class of the root tag, and adds the nested tags as children (if they are descendants of UIComponent) or members of the class.
.swd .swd files are temporary debugging files used during Flash development. Once finished developing a Flash project these files are not needed and can be removed.
.asc .asc files contain Server-Side ActionScript, which is used to develop efficient and flexible client-server Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX applications.
.abc .abc files contain actionscript bytecode used by the Actionscript Virtual Machine AVM (Flash 8 and prior), and AVM2 (Flash 9 or later).
.flv .flv files are Flash video files, as created by Adobe Flash, ffmpeg, Sorenson Squeeze, or On2 Flix. The audio and video data within FLV files are encoded in the same way as they are within SWF files.
.f4v .f4v files are similar to MP4 files and can be played back by Flash Player 9 Update 3 and above. F4V file format is second container format for Flash video and it differs from FLV file format. It is based on the ISO base media file format.[33][34]
.f4p .f4p files are F4V files with digital rights management.[33]
.f4a .f4a files are F4V files that contain only audio streams.[33]
.f4b .f4b files are F4V audio book files.[33]
.swc .swc files are used for distributing components; they contain a compiled clip, the component's ActionScript class file, and other files that describe the component.
.jsfl .jsfl files are used to add functionality in the Flash Authoring environment; they contain JavaScript code and access the Flash JavaScript API.
.swt .swt files are 'templatized' forms of .swf files, used by Macromedia Generator
.flp .flp files are XML files used to reference all the document files contained in a Flash Project. Flash Projects allow the user to group multiple, related files together to assist in Flash project organization, compilation and build.
.spl .spl files are FutureSplash documents.
.aso .aso files are cache files used during Flash development, containing compiled ActionScript byte code. An ASO file is recreated when a change in its corresponding class files is detected. Occasionally the Flash IDE does not recognize that a recompile is necessary, and these cache files must be deleted manually. They are located in %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash8\en\Configuration\Classes\aso on Win32 / Flash8.
.sol .sol files are created by Adobe Flash Player to hold Local Shared Objects (data stored on the system running the Flash player).

Video in web pages

Flash can be used to embed video in web pages, a feature available since Flash Player version 6. The technique is to create a flash file (.swf) that provides a user interface for playing the video file, a so called "player". This is what many popular video sites do, including YouTube and Google Video. The actual video file is either an FLV or F4V file; both can easily be played by generic video player software. However, getting browsers to display video has traditionally been a platform specific issue due to lack of a web standard for video and a common video codec. Using Flash has the advantage of Flash Player's wide distribution, but as this is proprietary technology for which there is no real alternative, it also makes multimedia embedded in this way notoriously difficult to access for non-users of the Flash Player. A similar paradox is that while Flash as a format arguably is a de facto standard, it hardly qualifies as a standard, as there is only one complete implementation, that implementation is proprietary, and a free-software partial implementation (rtmpdump) was thought to be illegal in the USA [32]. A web standard for video is in development for HTML 5.

Flash Player is a browser plugin, and cannot run within a usual e-mail client, such as Outlook. Instead, a link must open a browser window. A Gmail labs feature allows playback of YouTube videos linked in emails.

Flash Video

Flash Video FLV and F4V are container formats, meaning that they are not a video codec itself. The FLV file format was at first used as one of ways for feeding data to Flash Media Server since Flash Player 6. Flash Player can play FLV files directly (MIME type video/x-flv) starting with version 7. The new F4V file format is supported starting with Flash Player version 9 Update 3. The F4V file format is based on the ISO base media file format (MPEG-4 Part 12) and it is completely different from the FLV file format. For example, F4V does not support Screen video, Sorenson Spark, VP6 video compression formats and ADPCM, Nellymoser audio compression formats.[34][35]

The video in early versions of Flash is encoded in Sorenson Spark (Sorenson H.263).[36][37] In Flash 8 it may be encoded in Sorenson Spark or ON2V (also known as VP6) which provided a greater efficiency for any given bit rate. Flash 9 introduced the option of encoding in H.264 (also known as MPEG-4 AVC) (a codec generally regarded as superior to and replacing ON2V and Sorenson codec). Flash 10 is not known to introduce any new video codecs, as the new features version 10 primarily focus on are on back-end improvements (in digital rights management, 3D video and effects, improved stream control and interactivity with the flash server.)

Flash Audio is most commonly encoded in MP3 or AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) however it does also support ADPCM, Nellymoser (Nellymoser Asao Codec) and Speex audio codecs.

On August 20, 2007, Adobe announced on its blog that with Update 3 of Flash Player 9, Flash Video will also support some parts of the MPEG-4 international standards.[35] Specifically, Flash Player will have support for video compressed in H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10), audio compressed using AAC (MPEG-4 Part 3), the F4V, MP4 (MPEG-4 Part 14), M4V, M4A, 3GP and MOV multimedia container formats, 3GPP Timed Text specification (MPEG-4 Part 17) which is a standardized subtitle format and partial parsing support for the 'ilst' atom which is the ID3 equivalent iTunes uses to store metadata. MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.263 will not be supported in F4V file format. Adobe also announced that they will be gradually moving away from the FLV format to the standard ISO base media file format (MPEG-4 Part 12) owing to functional limits with the FLV structure when streaming H.264. The final release of the Flash Player supporting some parts of MPEG-4 standards had become available in Fall 2007.[38]


Apple CEO Steve Jobs Keeps Flash from Crippling the New iPad

During the January 2010 launch of the brand-new Apple iPad, CEO Steve Jobs demoed the device, showing the live, Internet front page of The New York Times. Noticeably absent from the page were regions encoded in Flash: Each appeared as an empty white box, with only a small Flash-plug-in-missing notice centered within.

Apple's reason to exclude Flash was deliberate. In a town-hall meeting, Steve Jobs spoke plainly to his Apple employees:[39]

About Adobe: They are lazy, Jobs says. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon.
Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes, more often than not, it’s because of Flash.

As to the necessity and future of Flash, Jobs continued:[40]

No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.

Checking Version via "About" Forces Advertisement

To determine the version of Flash installed, one right-clicks the Flash movie and chooses from the pop-up menu "About." Unlike in earlier versions of Flash, where the version number immediately appeared in an overlay dialog box, Flash now forces an entire browser window (or tab) to pop up, leading to an Adobe, multiple-Flash-movie Web page[2], where the user is forced to view an advertisement embedded in the movie that displays the version number. In February 2010, the Avatar movie trailer was one of the forced ads.

User Privacy Compromised by Default, via Local Shared Objects (LSOs)

Adobe, like Macromedia, claims disingenuously that Flash MX Players use a sandbox security model, but, contrary to that definition, Flash MX Players (that is, Flash Players subsequent to Version 5) do not seek the user's permission to store on his hard disk so-called Local Shared Objects (LSOs), which constitute an insecure collection of cookie-like data that may include not only user-tracking information but any personal data that the user has entered in any Flash-enabled application, whether it be stand-alone or Web-based. LSOs — an automatic, invisible opt-in for anyone installing a Flash MX Player — are not temporary files, and there is, deliberately as designed by Macromedia, no obvious control panel to opt out of them; instead, the user who wishes to maintain his privacy must discover on his own their presence, and then find the Macromedia Web-site page ([3] or [4]) whose links activate the Flash MX Player plug-in and then expose the hidden, Flash-based LSO-opt-out "Settings Manager" control panel. Versions of the Flash Player prior to those that handle Flash MX content did not use these silently invasive, privacy-threatening LSOs.

There are already reports of LSO exploitation by advertisers: Flash Player Worries Privacy Advocates (InternetWeek). Most users, including those familiar with Flash who protect themselves from cookies, are unaware of this kind of tracking, which is not curtailed by customary in-browser cookie settings and most cookie-cleaning utilities:

Insecure SOL Files Persist Unprotected Private Info Across Browsers and Other Applications

LSOs are stored in "SOL files" (typically, files with the extension "SOL"). String data, such as one's name, address, or Social Security Number, are stored by default within SOL files as plain ASCII text, which means that the data are insecure and easily read by any application. SOL files may store far more information than the traditional 4K-limited cookie. The default (declared by Macromedia and open to increase at Adobe's whim) SOL-file storage limit is 100K per domain, but this limit is easily bypassed and may be set to UNLIMITED STORAGE: The user may do this deliberately via the aforementioned, buried "Settings Manager" (unlikely, for most users), or he may do it (un)wittingly, such as by answering a prompt from an application seeking to store more than the default 100K.

Flash is NOT required to create, read, or write SOL files, which means that private information stored within them is open to any application that wants it. Examples of non-Flash SOL-file editors and toolkits include: SolVE, ASV SOL Viewer and Editor, .SOL Editor, and Dojo JavaScript Toolkit.

Opted-In-By-Default Users Caught Unaware and Unprotected

Most Web-browser users do not realize that Web pages do not have to offer any visible signs that a Flash application is running and accessing personal information stored in SOL files. Even Web developers know that it would be difficult to detect if a Flash application were utilizing SOL files.

To this day, there is little public awareness of Adobe/Macromedia's hidden, proprietary-cookie LSOs, and no widespread, well-known utility-suite, anti-spyware, or anti-adware programs that address them. Users who delete traditional cookies with such programs may find those cookies resurrected because of Adobe/Macromedia's LSOs: Tool Can Resurrect Deleted Cookies ( Since LSOs, unlike traditional cookies, have no expiration dates, the information resurrected in those cookies may persist indefinitely.

The default storage location for LSOs is operating-system dependent. For Windows XP, the location is within each user's Application Data directory, under Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects. Additional information is available at the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Local Shared Objects — "Flash Cookies" page.

User PCs Compromised via Flash Players

Specially crafted files have been shown to cause Flash applications to malfunction, by allowing the execution of malevolent code. The Flash Player has a long history of security flaws that expose computers to remote attacks. In addition to entries in the Open Source Vulnerability Database, security advisories published in August 2002, December 2002, and November 2005 highlight just three examples of reports about various Flash Player versions that allowed the takeover of a victim's PC, whether the viewed Flash SWF file had been embedded in a Web page, sent in an e-mail, or downloaded by the user.

Excessive Use of CPU

  • The performance of the Adobe Flash Player on computers running Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux is considered by some people to be inadequate.[41]
  • Any Flash player has to be able to animate on top of the video rendering, which makes hardware accelerated video rendering at least not as straightforward as with a purpose built multimedia player.[42] It is not uncommon for other multimedia players to play fine where Flash Player drops frames and skips audio.[43]

Many popular web browsers now have extensions that prevent immediate Flash playback, but lets the user play it by clicking it first. Firefox has NoScript and Flashblock while a separate extension for Opera also called Flashblock is available. One similar extension for Internet Explorer is Foxie, and contains a number of features, one of which is also named Flashblock. K-Meleon has a built-in Flash blocker. WebKit-based browsers under Mac OS X have ClickToFlash.[44]


Using Flash tends to break conventions associated with normal HTML pages. Selecting text, scrolling,[45] form control and right-clicking act differently than with a regular HTML webpage. Many such interface unexpectancies are fixable by the designer. Usability expert Jakob Nielsen published an Alertbox in 2000 entitled, Flash: 99% Bad which listed issues like this.[46] Some problems have been improved upon since Nielsen's complaints:

  • Text size can be controlled using full page zoom, found in many modern browsers.
  • It has been possible for authors to include alternative text in Flash since Flash Player 6. This accessibility feature is compatible only with certain screen readers and only under Windows.[47]

The US Justice Department has stated in regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990:[citation needed]

Covered entities under the ADA are required to provide effective communication, regardless of whether they generally communicate through print media, audio media, or computerized media such as the Internet. Covered entities that use the Internet for communications regarding their programs, goods, or services must be prepared to offer those communications through accessible means as well.

Violating freedom of the web

The proprietary nature of Flash is a major concern to advocates of open standards and free software. Its widespread use has, according to some such observers, harmed the otherwise open nature of the World Wide Web.[48] A response may be seen in Adobe's Open Screen Project.

Representing open standards, inventor of CSS and co-author of HTML5, Håkon Wium Lie explained in a Google tech talk the proposal of Theora as the video codec for HTML 5[49] (see also the Ogg controversy):

I believe very strongly, that we need to agree on some kind of baseline video format if [the video element] is going to succeed. Flash is today the baseline format on the web. The problem with Flash is that it's not an open standard.

Representing the free software movement, Richard Stallman stated in a speech in October 2004 that:[50]

The use of Flash in websites is a major problem for our community.

Stallman's argument then was that no free players were comparatively good enough. As of February 2009, Gnash and Swfdec have seen very limited success in competing with Adobe's player. The fact that many important and popular websites expect users to have Adobe's player, combined with the lack of good free alternatives have led to frustration among users,[51] suggesting that this is the most common obstacle to enjoying the web using free software, which presumably relates to the continual high ranking of Gnash on the Free Software Foundation's list of high priority projects.[52]

Referring to the web's openness, an essential feature is that web pages as well as the files they consist of are coupled together by human readable text. Similarly, the openness of the internet lies in its protocols. Thus, the common practice by video centric websites of hiding the URL of web embedded multimedia using Flash or Silverlight, obfuscating the URL with JavaScript, or using custom protocols like RTMP (Flash) or MMS (Windows Media streams), may seem threatening to the openness of the web. Such nonstandardization makes it hard to use other software than intended by the publisher, in turn making it hard to do other things than intended by the respective software programmers. For example, the words "streaming" and "download" are often used by web publishers as if they were mutually exclusive events independently allowed by their service, although the distinction, whether the client plays or saves the transmitted data or even both, is solely up to the client. Imposing the opposite impression in effect restricts users' control of their own computing.

Incomplete 64-bit support

Adobe provides an experimental 64-bit build of Flash Player 10. It is only for Linux, and only for x86-64 processors.[53][54] Because of this, 64-bit Microsoft Windows has to run a 32-bit version of its Internet Explorer browser by default, and all major browsers targeting Windows are distributed in 32-bit form.

Users with 64-bit Linux distributions e.g. Ubuntu 64-bit have reported problems with the 32-bit Flash Player on some websites.[55] Affected users can install the Alpha version of the 64-bit Flash Player manually.

See also

Adobe Flash



  1. FLV and F4V Video File Format Specification Version 9
    F4V is based on ISO base media file format standard:freely available ISO standards, and also available via subscription [1]


  1. Waldron, Rick (2006-08-27). "The Flash History". Flashmagazine. Retrieved 2001-06-18. 
  2. Gay, Jonathan (2001). "The History of Flash". Adobe Systems Inc.. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  3. "Grandmasters of Flash: An Interview with the Creators of Flash". Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  4. "AIR passes 100 million installations". Retrieved 3 February 2009. 
  5. "Adobe unveils Flash video control". BBC News. BBC. 2007-04-16. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  6. "Palm Latest Mobile Industry Leader to Join Open Screen Project". 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Adobe and Industry Leaders Establish Open Screen Project". 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Murarka, Anup. "Inside the Open Screen Project". Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  9. "Open Screen Project partners". Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  10. "Adobe and Nokia Announce $10 Million Open Screen Project Fund". 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  11. Third party review of another decompiler
  12. Customer comments on one Flash decompiler
  13. Customer comments on another Flash product
  14. "Web Browser Plugin Market Share". StatOwl. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  15. 98%: NPD study
  16. 99.3%: Millward Brown survey, conducted June 2009. "Flash Player Statistics". Adobe Systems. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  17. "Adobe Flash Player Version Penetration". Adobe Systems. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  19. Huang, Emmy (2008-11-17). "SWF 10 spec available AND Flash Player alpha for 64-bit Linux on Labs". Adobe Systems. 
  20. Picture Perfect
  21. "Adobe to Discontinue Adobe SVG Viewer". Adobe Systems. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  22. "Adobe, ‘Rich Internet Applications’ and Standards". 2006-12-27. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  23. "Opera". Svg wiki. 2006-12-27. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  24. Quint, Antoine (2006-07-13). "First Firefox 2.0 Beta Released". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  25. "SVG improvements in Firefox 3". Mozilla Developer Center - Documentation. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  26. "UIRA, Unifreeze". 2008-04-20. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  27. "Adobe File Format Specification FAQ". Adobe Systems. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  28. "Free Flash community reacts to Adobe Open Screen Project". Retrieved 2008-11-29. 
  29. Hudson, Paul (July 2008). "Quick as a Gnash". Linux Format (107): 48–49. "What happened is this little thing called "software patents". When you use MP3 or FLV, they're proprietary. And although we use FFMPEG and Gstreamer - we actually support all these codecs - we can't distribute Gnash that way. ...of course the OLPC project cannot legally redistribute the codecs. ...Gnash fully supports patent-free codecs such as Ogg Vorbis and Theora and Direc and stuff — Rob Savoye.". 
  30. "Gnash Introduction". Free Software Foundation, Inc.. 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  31. Rob Savoye, Ann Barcomb (June 2007). "Gnash Manual version 0.4.0". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 "Adobe requests rtmpdump removed from Sourceforge". 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 New File Extensions and MIME Types
  34. 34.0 34.1 Adobe Systems Incorporated (November 2008) (PDF). Video File Format Specification, Version 10. Adobe Systems Incorporated. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 "What just happened to video on the web". Adobe. 
  36. Adobe LiveDocs (2005) Flash 8 Documentation - About the On2 VP6 and Sorenson Spark video codecs, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  37. Adobe LiveDocs (2005) Flash 8 Documentation - Comparing the On2 VP6 and Sorenson Spark video codecs, Retrieved on 2009-08-09
  38. Adobe Press release on MPEG-4 support in Flash Player 9
  39. Abell, John (2010-01-30). "Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Mantra is ‘Bullshit,’ Adobe Is Lazy: Apple’s Steve Jobs". Wired. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  40. Abell, John (2010-01-30). "Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Mantra is ‘Bullshit,’ Adobe Is Lazy: Apple’s Steve Jobs". Wired. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  41. "Flash benchmarks on different operating systems". 
  44. "ClickToFlash". Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  45. Scrolling and Scrollbars (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
  46. Nielsen, Jakob (2000-10-29). "Flash: 99% Bad". Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  47. "Provide text equivalents for graphics - in Flash". Skills for Access – How To. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  48. Meyer, David (2008-04-30). "Mozilla warns of Flash and Silverlight 'agenda'". ZDNet. Retrieved 2009-01-11. "Companies building websites should beware of proprietary rich-media technologies like Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight, the founder of Mozilla Europe has warned." 
  49. "Håkon Wium Lie on the video element in HTML 5". Google Video. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  50. "Richard Stallman on The free software movement and its challenges". Australian National University, Canberra, Australia: Google Video. Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  51. "Linus struggles with Flash Player". Fedora bugtracker. Retrieved 2009-02-21. 
  52. High Priority Free Software Projects, Free Software Foundation,, retrieved 2009-07-09 

External links

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