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Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash and FutureSplash) is a multimedia software platform used for production of animations, rich web applications, desktop applications, mobile apps, mobile games, and embedded web browser video players. Flash displays text, vector graphics, and raster graphics to provide animations, video games, and applications. It allows streaming of audio and video, and can capture mouse, keyboard, microphone, and camera input.
Artists may produce Flash graphics and animations using Adobe Animate (formerly known as Adobe Flash Professional). Software developers may produce applications and video games using Adobe Flash Builder, FlashDevelop, Flash Catalyst, or any text editor combined with the Apache Flex SDK. End users view Flash content via Flash Player (for web browsers), Adobe AIR (for desktop or mobile apps), or third-party players such as Scaleform (for video games). Adobe Flash Player (which is available on Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux) enables end users to view Flash content using web browsers. Adobe Flash Lite enabled viewing Flash content on older smartphones, but since has been discontinued and superseded by Adobe AIR.
The ActionScript programming language allows the development of interactive animations, video games, web applications, desktop applications, and mobile applications. Programmers can implement Flash software using an IDE such as Adobe Animate, Adobe Flash Builder, Adobe Director, FlashDevelop, and Powerflasher FDT. Adobe AIR enables full-featured desktop and mobile applications to be developed with Flash and published for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch.
Flash was initially used to create fully-interactive websites, but this approach was phased out with the introduction of HTML5. Instead, Flash found a niche as the dominant platform for online multimedia content, particularly for browser games. Following an open letter written by Steve Jobs in 2010 stating that he would not approve the use of Flash on Apple's iOS devices due to numerous security flaws, use of Flash declined as Adobe transitioned to the Adobe Air platform. The Flash Player was deprecated in 2017 and officially discontinued at the end of 2020 for all users outside China, as well as non-enterprise users, with many web browsers and operating systems scheduled to remove the Flash Player software around the same time. Adobe continues to develop Adobe Animate, which supports web standards such as HTML5 instead of the Flash format.
In the early 2000s, Flash was widely installed on desktop computers, and was often used to display interactive web pages and online games, and to play video and audio content. In 2005, YouTube was founded by former PayPal employees, and it used Adobe Flash Player as a means to display compressed video content on the web.
Developers could create Flash web applications and rich web applications in ActionScript 3.0 programming language with IDEs, including Adobe Flash Builder, FlashDevelop and Powerflasher FDT. Flex applications were typically built using Flex frameworks such as PureMVC.
Flash video games were popular on the Internet, with portals like Newgrounds, Kongregate, and Armor Games dedicated to hosting Flash-based games. Many Flash games were developed by individuals or groups of friends due to the simplicity of the software. Popular Flash games include Farmville, Alien Hominid, QWOP and Club Penguin.
Adobe introduced various technologies to help build video games, including Adobe AIR (to release games for desktop or mobile platforms), Adobe Scout (to improve performance), CrossBridge (to convert C++-based games to run in Flash), and Stage3D (to support GPU-accelerated video games). 3D frameworks like Away3D and Flare3D simplified creation of 3D content for Flash.
Flash is also used to build interfaces and HUDs for 3D video games using Scaleform GFx, a technology that renders Flash content within non-Flash video games. Scaleform is supported by more than 10 major video game engines including Unreal Engine and UDK, CryEngine, and PhyreEngine, and has been used to provide 3D interfaces for more than 150 major video game titles since its launch in 2003.
In 2011, Adobe Flash Player 11 was released, and with it the first version of Stage3D, allowing GPU-accelerated 3D rendering for Flash applications and games on desktop platforms such as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Adobe further improved 3D capabilities from 2011 to 2013, adding support for 3D rendering on Android and iOS platforms, alpha-channels, compressed textures, texture atlases, and other features. Adobe AIR was upgraded to support 64-bit computers, and to allow developers to add additional functionality to the AIR runtime using AIR Native Extensions (ANE).
One of Flash's primary uses on the Internet when it was first released was for building fully immersive, interactive websites. These were typically highly creative site designs that provided more flexibility over what the current HTML standards could provide as well as operate over dial-up connections. However, these sites limited accessibility by "breaking the Back Button", dumping visitors out of the Flash experience entirely by returning them to whatever page they had been on prior to first arriving at the site. Fully Flash-run sites fell out of favor for more strategic use of Flash plugins for video and other interactive features among standard HTML conventions, corresponding with the availability of HTML features like cascading style-sheets in the mid-00's. At the same time, this also led to Flash being used for new apps, including video games and animations. Precursors to YouTube but featuring user-generated Flash animations and games such as Newgrounds became popular destinations, further helping to spread the use of Flash.
Closer to Flash's EOL date in 2020, there were more concentrated efforts simply to preserve existing Flash applications, including websites, video games, and animations beyond Flash's EOL. The Internet Archive introduced Ruffle and Emularity Flash emulators to emulate Flash games and animations without the security holes in November 2020, opening a new collection for creators and users to save and preserve Flash content. By January 2020, the Flashpoint project collected more than 38,000 Flash applications, excluding those that were commercial products, and offered as a large freely available archive for users to download. Kongregate, one of the larger sites that offered Flash games, has been working with the Strong Museum of Play to preserve its games.
Flash Player 11 introduced a full 3D shader API, called Stage3D, which is fairly similar to WebGL. Stage3D enables GPU-accelerated rendering of 3D graphics within Flash games and applications, and has been used to build Angry Birds, and a couple of other notable games.
The Adobe Animate authoring program is primarily used to design graphics and animation and publish the same for websites, web applications, and video games. The program also offers limited support for audio and video embedding and ActionScript scripting.
The Flash 4 Linux project was an initiative to develop an open source Linux application as an alternative to Adobe Animate. Development plans included authoring capacity for 2D animation, and tweening, as well as outputting SWF file formats. F4L evolved into an editor that was capable of authoring 2D animation and publishing of SWF files. Flash 4 Linux was renamed UIRA. UIRA intended to combine the resources and knowledge of the F4L project and the Qflash project, both of which were Open Source applications that aimed to provide an alternative to the proprietary Adobe Flash.
Scaleform GFx is a commercial alternative Flash player that features fully hardware-accelerated 2D graphics rendering using the GPU. Scaleform has high conformance with both Flash 10 ActionScript 3 and Flash 8 ActionScript 2. Scaleform GFx is a game development middleware solution that helps create graphical user interfaces or HUDs within 3D video games. It does not work with web browsers.
In the same year that Shumway was abandoned, work began on Ruffle, a flash emulator written in Rust. It also runs in web browsers, by compiling down to WebAssembly and using HTML5 Canvas. In 2020, the Internet Archive added support for emulating SWF by adding Ruffle to its emulation scheme. As of January 2023, Ruffle supports 90% of AVM1 and 60% of AS1/2 APIs, but implements so little of AVM2 (AS3) that no applications are supported.
Like the HTTP cookie, a flash cookie (also known as a "Local Shared Object") can be used to save application data. Flash cookies are not shared across domains. An August 2009 study by the Ashkan Soltani and a team of researchers at UC Berkeley found that 50% of websites using Flash were also employing flash cookies, yet privacy policies rarely disclosed them, and user controls for privacy preferences were lacking. Most browsers' cache and history suppress or delete functions did not affect Flash Player's writing Local Shared Objects to its own cache in version 10.2 and earlier, at which point the user community was much less aware of the existence and function of Flash cookies than HTTP cookies. Thus, users with those versions, having deleted HTTP cookies and purged browser history files and caches, may believe that they have purged all tracking data from their computers when in fact Flash browsing history remains. Adobe's own Flash Website Storage Settings panel, a submenu of Adobe's Flash Settings Manager web application, and other editors and toolkits can manage settings for and delete Flash Local Shared Objects.
At the end of this year, most Flash games will be unplayable in their original form. Adobe are going to stop distributing Flash, and so most browsers plan on dropping Flash support. While this may be an internet security victory - Flash has a history of being vulnerable to certain kinds of malware - it does make it harder to experience the thousands of online Flash games. There are ways to download and run Flash games offline, but many of those games have processes that are meant to lock the game to its original site. 2b1af7f3a8