What is a Flash Player?

For years, Adobe Flash has been a dominant media platform for videos, animations, and other graphics applications. Besides displaying visuals, Flash can also recognize mouse and keyboard input, which makes it a popular platform for designing browser-based and mobile games. Typically, Flash content is designed with editing software like Adobe Flash Builder or FlashDevelop, and then viewed with Adobe Flash Player or other third-party software. So what is a Flash player, and what makes it different from other video applications?

What is a Flash player?

Supported by all major operating systems, Adobe Flash Player allows users to display Flash content on websites and smartphone apps. To run on a web browser, the free software employs a plug-in so that Flash content can automatically start when you load a page. Some browsers like Google Chrome even come packaged with a Flash plug-in. 

In essence, Flash Player is designed to run SWF files, and these are the graphics files created with Animate, Flash Builder, and many other tools. These files can contain vectors, raster graphics, 3D graphics, video and audio streams, and other scripted events. Using the ActionScript programming language, creators can animate graphics and text, set conditions for audio and video to play, and integrate the platform into web design. 


Underneath the hood, Adobe Integrated Runtime (or AIR) uses the same platform to allow Flash content to run on mobile and desktop applications. This system allows developers to also take advantage of a device's GPS and accelerometer technology, incorporating it into their games and animations.   

What formats does Flash Player support?

Flash includes support for a wide range of multimedia file formats, including:

  • MP3: Since Flash Player 4, developers have been able to upload MP3 files to a server and link them to Flash content using HTTP. These files can also be embedded into a standard SWF file. 
  • JPEG: Today, Flash Player allows both JPEG and JPEG-XR standards to be encoded into an SWF file.
  • GIF: Technically, this popular web graphics format is supported by Flash, but only the first frame of an animation can be displayed.
  • PNG: Portable Network Graphics files can be encoded and rendered using Flash, with Flash Player 11 adding PNG bitmap compatibility. 


Flash and Mobile

In recent years, Adobe Flash has lost its hold on mobile platforms. Google Android devices do not support Flash by default, and Apple's iOS completely blocks Flash from being used when web surfing. However, Flash content is still available on mobile applications when designed with AIR. As development trends change, Flash needs to keep evolving to stay ahead of its competition.

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