Adobe Flash Player
|Preview release||126.96.36.1990 Beta (January 13, 2015[±])|
|Operating system||Windows, OS X, Linux, Solaris, BlackBerry Tablet OS, Android, and Pocket PC|
|Platform||Web browsers and ActiveX-based software|
|Available in||Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Korean, and Turkish.|
|Type||Run-time environment, Media player, and Browser extension|
Adobe Flash Player (labeled Shockwave Flash in Internet Explorer and Firefox) is freeware software for viewing multimedia, executing rich Internet applications, and streaming video and audio, content created on the Adobe Flash platform. Flash Player can run from a web browser as a browser plug-in or on supported mobile devices.
Flash Player has a wide user base, with over 90% penetration on internet connected personal computers, and is a common format for games, animations, and GUIs embedded into web pages. Adobe Systems, the developer of Adobe Flash Player, states that more than 400 million of total more than 1 billion connected desktops update to the new version of Flash Player within six weeks of release.
Flash Player can be downloaded for free and its plug-in version is available for recent versions of web browsers (such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Safari) on selected platforms. Google Chrome distribution comes bundled with the sandboxed Adobe Flash plug-in and will continue to support the plug-in in Windows 8 Metro mode. Each version of Adobe Flash Player is backwards-compatible.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Features
- 3 Development toolset
- 4 Availability
- 5 Criticism
- 6 Release history
- 7 See also
- 8 References and notes
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Flash Player can run from a web browser (as a browser plug-in) or on supported mobile devices, and standalone application versions are also available for Windows and Mac OS X, intended primarily for developers.
Flash Player runs SWF files that can be created by the Adobe Flash Professional authoring tool, by Adobe Flex or by a number of other Macromedia and third party tools. Flash Player was created by Macromedia and now developed and distributed by Adobe Systems after its acquisition.
Adobe Flash Player is a runtime that executes and displays content from a provided SWF file, although it has no in-built features to modify the SWF file at runtime. It can execute software written in the ActionScript programming language which enables the runtime manipulation of text, data, vector graphics, raster graphics, sound and video. The player can also access certain connected hardware devices, including web cameras and microphones, after permission for the same has been granted by the user.
Flash Player is used internally by the Adobe Integrated Runtime (Adobe AIR), in order to provide a cross-platform runtime environment for desktop applications and mobile applications. Adobe AIR supports installable applications on Windows, Linux, OS X, and some mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android. Flash applications must specifically be built for the Adobe AIR runtime in order to utilize additional features provided, such as file system integration, native client extensions, native window/screen integration, taskbar/dock integration, and hardware integration with connected Accelerometer and GPS devices.
- XML: Flash Player has included native support for XML parsing and generation since version 8. XML data is held in memory as an XML Document Object Model, and can be manipulated using ActionScript. ActionScript 3 also supports ECMAScript for XML (E4X), which allows XML data to be manipulated more easily.
- AMF: Flash Player allows cookies to be stored on users computers, in the form of Local Shared Objects, the Flash equivalent to browser cookies. Flash Player can also natively read and write files in the Action Message Format, the default data format for Local Shared Objects. Since the AMF format specification is published, data can be transferred to and from Flash applications using AMF datasets instead of JSON or XML, reducing the need for parsing and validating such data.
- SWF: The specification for the SWF file format was published by Adobe, enabling the development of the SWX Format project, which utilized the SWF file format and AMF as a means for Flash applications to exchange data with server side applications. The SWX system stores data as standard SWF bytecode which is automatically interpreted by Flash Player. Another open-source project, SWXml allows Flash applications to load XML files as native ActionScript objects without any client-side XML parsing, by converting XML files to SWF/AMF on the server.
Flash Player is primarily a graphics and multimedia platform, and has supported raster graphics and vector graphics since its earliest version. It supports the following different multimedia formats which it can natively decode and playback.
- MP3: Support for decoding and playback of streaming MPEG-2 Audio Layer III (MP3) audio was introduced in Flash Player 4. MP3 files can be accessed and played back from a server via HTTP, or embedded inside an SWF file, which is also a streaming format.
- FLV: Support for decoding and playing back video and audio inside Flash Video (FLV and F4V) files, a format developed by Adobe Systems and Macromedia. Flash Video is only a container format and supports multiple different video codecs, such as Sorenson Spark, VP6 and more recently H.264. Flash Player uses hardware acceleration to display video where present, using technologies such as DirectX Video Acceleration and OpenGL to do so. Flash Video is used by YouTube, Hulu, Yahoo! Video, BBC Online and other news providers. FLV files can be played back from a server using HTTP progressive download, and can also be embedded inside an SWF file. Flash Video can also be streamed via RTMP using the Adobe Flash Media Server or other such server-side software.
- PNG: Support for decoding and rendering Portable Network Graphics (PNG) images, in both its 24-bit (opaque) and 32-bit (semi-transparent) variants. Flash Player 11 can also encode a PNG bitmap via ActionScript.
- JPEG: Support for decoding and rendering compressed JPEG images. Flash Player 10 added support for the JPEG-XR advanced image compression standard developed by Microsoft Corporation, which results in better compression and quality than JPEG. JPEG-XR enables lossy and lossless compression with or without alpha channel transparency. Flash Player 11 can also encode a JPEG or JPEG-XR bitmap via ActionScript.
- GIF: Support for decoding and rendering compressed Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images, in its single-frame variants only. Loading a multi-frame GIF will display only the first image frame.
- HTTP: Support for communicating with web servers using HTTP requests and POST data. However, only websites that explicitly allow Flash to connect to them can be accessed via HTTP or Sockets, in order to prevent Flash being used as a tool for Cross-site request forgery, Cross-site scripting, DNS rebinding and Denial-of-service attacks. Websites must host a certain XML file known as a "cross domain policy", allowing or denying Flash content from specific websites to connect to them. Certain websites, such as Digg, Flikr, Photobucket already host a cross domain policy that permits Flash content to access their website via HTTP.
- RTMP: Support for live audio and video streaming using the Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) developed by Macromedia. RTMP supports a non-encrypted version over the TCP or an encrypted version over a secure SSL connection. RTMPT can also be encapsulated within HTTP requests to traverse firewalls that only allow HTTP traffics.
- TCP: Support for TCP socket communication to communicate with any type of server, using stream sockets. Sockets can only be utilized using ActionScript, and can transfer plain text, XML or binary data (ActionScript 3.0 and later). In order to prevent security issues, web servers that permit Flash content to communicate with them using sockets must host an XML-based cross domain policy file, served on Port 843. Sockets enable AS3 programs to interface with any kind of server software, such as MySQL.
Until version 10 of the Flash player, there was no support for GPU acceleration. Version 10 added a limited form of support for shaders on materials in the form of the Pixel Bender API, but still did not have GPU-accelerated 3D vertex processing. A significant change came in version 11, which added a new low-level API called Stage3D (initially codenamed Molehill), which provides full GPU acceleration, similar to WebGL. (The partial support for GPU acceleration in Pixel Bender was completely removed in Flash 11.8, resulting in the disruption of some projects like MIT's Scratch, which lacked the manpower to recode their applications quickly enough.)
Current versions of Flash Player are optimized to use hardware acceleration for video playback and 3D graphics rendering on many devices, including desktop computers. Performance is similar to HTML5 video playback. Also, Flash Player has been used on multiple mobile devices as a primary user interface renderer.
Although code written in ActionScript 3 executes up to 10 times faster than the previous ActionScript 2, the Adobe ActionScript 3 compiler is a non-optimizing compiler, and produces inefficient bytecode in the resulting SWF, when compared to toolkits such as CrossBridge.
CrossBridge, a toolkit that targets C++ code to run within the Flash Player, uses the LLVM compiler to produce bytecode that runs up to 10 times faster than code the ActionScript 3 compiler produces, only because the LLVM compiler uses more aggressive optimization.
Adobe has released ActionScript Compiler 2 (ASC2) in Flex 4.7 and onwards, which improves compilation times and optimizes the generated bytecode and supports method inlining, improving its performance at runtime.
Flash Player applications and games can be built in two significantly different methods:
- "Flex" applications : The Adobe Flex Framework is an integrated collection of stylable Graphical User Interface, data manipulation and networking components, and applications built upon it are known as "Flex" applications. Startup time is reduced since the Flex framework must be downloaded before the application begins, and weighs in at approximately 500kb. Adobe Flash Builder is the premium tool for Flex application development, since it includes an integrated drag-and-drop user interface builder, not found in competing tools like FlashDevelop.
- "Pure ActionScript" applications : Applications built without the Flex framework allow greater flexibility and performance. Video games built for Flash Player are typically pure-Actionscript projects. Various open-source component frameworks are available for pure ActionScript projects, such as MadComponents, that provide UI Components at significantly smaller SWF file sizes.
In both methods, developers can access the full Flash Player set of functionalities, including text, vector graphics, bitmap graphics, video, audio, camera and microphone capability, among others. Adobe AIR also includes additional features such as file system integration, native extensions, native desktop integration, and hardware integration with connected devices.
Adobe provides five ways of developing applications for Flash Player:
- Adobe Flash Builder (enterprise application development & debugging)
- Adobe Flash Professional (graphic design, animation & scripting toolset)
- Adobe Scout (visual profiler for performance optimization)
- Adobe Flex SDK (a free SDK to compile Flash applications from source code)
- CrossBridge (a free SDK to cross-compile C++ code to run in Flash Player)
Third-party development environments are also available:
- FlashDevelop, an open-source Flash ActionScript IDE, which includes a debugger for AIR applications
- Powerflasher FDT, a commercial ActionScript IDE
- CodeDrive, an extension to Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 for ActionScript 3 development and debugging
Adobe has provided a free software development kit (SDK) in order to build Flash applications, now known as the Apache Flex SDK. The Flex SDK allows developers to use any text editor such as Notepad++ or FlashDevelop (an IDE) to edit ActionScript source code (.as files), and then build a corresponding Flash application application (.swf) or AIR application application and installer (.air file) from the same.
- Away3D — GPU-accelerated 3D graphics and animation engine
- Starling — GPU-accelerated 2D graphics that mimics the Flash display list API
- Feathers — GPU-accelerated skinnable GUI library built on top of Starling
- Dragon Bones — GPU-accelerated 2D skeletal animation library
A few commercial game engines target Flash Player (Stage3D) as run-time environment, such as Unity 3D and Unreal Engine 3. Before the introduction of Stage3D, a number of older 2D engines or isometric engines like Flixel saw their heyday.
Adobe also developed the CrossBridge toolkit which cross-compiles C/C++ code to run within the Flash Player, using LLVM and GCC as compiler backends, and high-performance memory-access opcodes in the Flash Player (known as "Domain Memory") to work with in-memory data quickly. CrossBridge is targeted toward the game development industry, and includes tools for building, testing, and debugging C/C++ projects in Flash Player.
The documentation for the SWF file format is provided by Adobe free of cost on their website after they relaxed the requirement of accepting a non-disclosure agreement to view the same in 2008.
Adobe has not been willing to make complete source code of the Flash Player available for free software development. Free and open source alternatives to the Adobe Flash Player such as Gnash have been built, but are still incomplete and therefore not a viable alternative. The Lightspark Player is another such project, and has made more progress.
The source code for ActionScript Virtual Machine 2 (AVM2) which implements ActionScript 3 was donated as open-source to Mozilla Foundation on November 7, 2006, to begin work on the Tamarin virtual machine that will finally implement the ECMAScript 4 language standard with the help of the Mozilla community. It was released under the terms of a MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-license and includes the specification for the ActionScript bytecode format. Tamarin Project is jointly managed by Mozilla and Adobe Systems.
Adobe created the Open Screen Project which removes licensing fees and opens data protocols for Flash.
The Flash community has created many open-source projects that target Flash Player, such as FlashDevelop (an alternative IDE to Flash Builder), MTASC (compiler), and Haxe (multiplatform language).
The latest version of Flash Player, is available for many major desktop platforms including Windows (XP and newer) and OS X (10.6 and later). The latest version is also available on Linux but only on Google Chrome as Adobe no longer releases updates for the non-PPAPI plugin on Linux.
Adobe released an alpha version of Flash Player 10 for x86-64 Linux on November 17, 2008. Adobe released a beta version of Flash Player 11 on July 13, 2011, which has 64-bit editions for all supported platforms. Flash Player 11 was released to web on October 3, 2011.
Adobe Flash Player 11 is available in three flavors: "ActiveX", "Plug-in" and "Projector". The "ActiveX" version is an ActiveX control for use in Internet Explorer and any other Windows applications that supports ActiveX technology. The "plug-in" version is available for Netscape-compatible browsers on Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux. The "projector" version is a standalone player that can open SWF files directly.
In February 2012, Adobe announced it would discontinue development of Flash Player on Linux for all browsers except Google Chrome. As of March 2014[update] version 14 is the Adobe Labs preview release.
The Extended Support Release (ESR) of Flash Player on Mac and Windows, a version of Flash Player kept up to date with security updates, but none of the new features or bug fixes available in later versions, has been version 11.7 as of 9 July 2013 then version 13 as of 13 May 2014.
The following table documents Flash Player and Adobe AIR support on desktop operating systems:
|Operating System||Prerequisites||Usage||Latest Adobe Flash Player||Browser Support|
|Microsoft Windows||Windows XP/Vista/7/8, Windows Server 2003/2008/2012||Internet Browser, Standalone Applications||Flash Player 16.0, AIR 16.0||Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Chromium|
|Mac OS X||OS X 10.6 or newer||Internet Browser, Standalone Applications||Flash Player 16.0, AIR 16.0||Safari, Firefox, Opera, Chromium|
|Linux/Ubuntu with PPAP-based Browsers||None||Internet Browser||Flash Player 11.2||Unknown|
|Linux/Ubuntu with Google Chrome||Google Chrome||Internet Browser||Flash Player 16.0||Google Chrome|
In 2011, Flash Player had emerged as the de facto standard for online video publishing on the desktop, with adaptive bitrate video streaming, DRM, and fullscreen support. On mobile devices however, after Apple refused to allow the Flash Player within the inbuilt iOS web browser, Adobe changed strategy enabling Flash content to be delivered as native mobile applications using the Adobe Integrated Runtime.
Up until 2012, Flash Player 11 was available for the Android (ARM Cortex-A8 and above), although in June 2012, Google announced that Android 4.1 (codenamed Jelly Bean) will not support Flash by default. Starting in August 2012, Adobe no longer updates flash for Android. In spite of this, Adobe Flash is still available to install on Android devices via Adobe's update archives (up to Android 4.3).
Flash Player is certified to be supported on a select range of mobile and tablet devices, from Acer, BlackBerry 10, Dell, HTC, Lenovo, Logitech, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sharp, SoftBank, Sony (and Sony Ericsson), and Toshiba. As of 2012, Adobe has stopped browser-based Flash Player development for mobile browsers in favor of HTML5, however Adobe continues to support Flash content on mobile devices with the Adobe Integrated Runtime, which allows developers to publish content that runs as native applications on certain supported mobile phone platforms.
Version 9 is the most recent version currently available for the Linux/ARM-based Nokia 770/N800/N810 Internet Tablets running Maemo OS2008, classic Mac OS and Windows 95/NT. Version 10 can be run under Windows 98/Me using KernelEx. HP offers Version 6 of the player for HP-UX. Other versions of the player have been available at some point for OS/2, Symbian OS, Palm OS, BeOS and IRIX. The Kodak Easyshare One includes Flash Player.
Adobe said it will optimize Flash for use on ARM architecture (ARMv6 and ARMv7 architectures used in the ARM11 family and the Cortex-A series of processors) and release it in the second half of 2009. The company also stated it wants to enable Flash on NVIDIA Tegra, Texas Instruments OMAP 3 and Samsung ARMs. Beginning 2009, it was announced that Adobe would be bringing Flash to TV sets via Intel Media Processor CE 3100 before mid-2009. Later on, ARM Holdings said it welcomes the move of Flash, because "it will transform mobile applications and it removes the claim that the desktop controls the Internet." However, as of May 2009, the expected ARM/Linux netbook devices had poor support for Web video and fragmented software base.
Among other devices, LeapFrog Enterprises provides Flash Player with their Leapster Multimedia Learning System and extended the Flash Player with touch-screen support. Sony has integrated Flash Player 6 into the PlayStation Portable's web browser via firmware version 2.70 and Flash Player 9 into the PlayStation 3's web browser in firmware version 2.50. Nintendo has integrated Flash Lite 3.1, equivalent to Flash 8, in the Internet Channel on the Wii.
The following table documents Flash Player and Adobe AIR support on mobile operating systems:
|Operating System||Prerequisites||Usage||Latest Adobe Flash Player|
|Android||Android 2.2 to Android 4.3, ARM Cortex-A8+||Standalone Applications & Internet Browser||Flash Player 11.1, AIR 3.1|
|Android||Android 2.1, available on some rare Android Devices like the Motorola Flipout||Internet Browser||Flash Lite 3.0|
|Apple iOS||None||Standalone Applications||Flash Player 11.1, AIR 3.1|
|BlackBerry 10||Any version of BlackBerry 10||Internet Browser & Standalone Applications||Flash Player 11.1, AIR 3.1|
|BlackBerry Tablet OS||None||Standalone Applications & Internet Browser||Flash Player 11.1, AIR 3.1|
|Maemo||Internet Browser||Flash Player 9.4|
|PS3||Firmware 2.50, NetFront 2.81||Internet Browser||Flash Player 9.1 (update 3)|
|PSP||Firmware 2.70||Internet Browser||Flash Player 6)|
|Symbian OS||Internet Browser||Flash Lite 4.0|
|Wii||Opera||Internet Channel||Flash Lite 3.1|
|Pocket PC||Pocket PC 2003||Internet Browser||Flash Player 7 (stand-alone apps v6)|
|Windows Mobile||Windows Mobile 5||Internet Browser||Flash Player 7|
In some browsers, previous Flash versions have had to be uninstalled before an updated version could be installed. However, as of version 11.2 for Windows, there are now automatic updater options. Linux is partially supported, as Adobe is cooperating with Google to implement it via Chrome web browser on all Linux platforms.
Mixing flash applications with HTML leads to inconsistent behavior with respect to input handling (keyboard and mouse not working as they would in an HTML-only document). This is often done in web sites  and can lead to poor user experience with the site.
The 2014-02-20 update to 188.8.131.52 introduced a reported bug, producing green video with sound only. This defect is related to hardware acceleration and may be overcome by disabling hardware acceleration via the Adobe settings in Firefox (accessed by right clicking within the video) or in Internet Explorer (within the Tools settings). This defect may be related to widely used graphics hardware, AMD Radeon HD video cards, and similar visual defects have occurred in earlier Flash updates, with the same workaround.
Flash Player supports persistent local storage of data (also referred to as Local Shared Objects), which can be used similarly to HTTP cookies or Web Storage in web applications. Local storage in Flash Player allows websites to store non-executable data on a user's computer, such as authentication information, game high scores or saved games, server-based session identifiers, site preferences, saved work, or temporary files. Flash Player will only allow content originating from exactly the same website domain to access data saved in local storage.
Because local storage can be used to save information on a computer that is later retrieved by the same site, a site can use it to gather user statistics, similar to how HTTP cookies and Web Storage can be used. With such technologies, the possibility of building a profile based on user statistics is considered by some a potential privacy concern. Users can disable or restrict use of local storage in Flash Player through a "Settings Manager" page. These settings can be accessed from the Adobe website or by right-clicking on Flash-based content and selecting "Global Settings".
Local storage can be disabled entirely or on a site-by-site basis. Disabling local storage will block any content from saving local user information using Flash Player, but this may disable or reduce the functionality of some websites, such as saved preferences or high scores and saved progress in games.
Flash Player 10.1 and upward honor the privacy mode settings in the latest versions of the Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari web browsers, such that no local storage data is saved when the browser's privacy mode is in use.
Adobe security bulletins and advisories announce security updates, but Adobe Flash Player release notes do not disclose the security issues addressed when a release closes security holes, making it difficult to evaluate the urgency of a particular update. A version test page allows the user to check if the latest version is installed, and uninstallers may be used to ensure that old-version plugins have been uninstalled from all installed browsers.
In February 2010, Adobe officially apologized for not fixing a known vulnerability for over 1 year. In June 2010 Adobe announced a "critical vulnerability" in recent versions, saying there are reports that this vulnerability is being actively exploited in the wild against both Adobe Flash Player, and Adobe Reader and Acrobat. Later, in October 2010, Adobe announced another critical vulnerability, this time also affecting Android-based mobile devices. Android users have been recommended to disable Flash or make it only on demand. Subsequent security vulnerabilities also exposed Android users, such as the two critical vulnerabilities published in February 2013 or the four critical vulnerabilities published in March 2013, all of which could lead to arbitrary code execution.
Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report states that a remote code execution in Adobe Reader and Flash Player was the second most attacked vulnerability in 2009. The same report also recommends to employ browser add-ons wherever possible to disable Adobe Flash Player when visiting untrusted sites. McAfee predicted that Adobe software, especially Reader and Flash, would be primary target for attacks in 2010. Adobe applications had become, at least at some point, the most popular client-software targets for attackers during the last quarter of 2009. The Kaspersky Security Network published statistics for the third quarter of 2012 showing that 47.5% of its users were affected by one or more critical vulnerabilities. The report also highlighted that "Flash Player vulnerabilities enable cybercriminals to bypass security systems integrated into the application."
Steve Jobs criticized the security of Flash Player, noting that "Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009". Adobe responded by pointing out that "the Symantec Global Internet Threat Report for 2009 found that Flash Player had the second lowest number of vulnerabilities of all Internet technologies listed (which included both web plug-ins and browsers)."
Flash Player 11.2 does not play certain kinds of content unless it has been digitally signed by Adobe, following a license obtained by the publisher directly from Adobe.
This has been resolved as of January 2013, after Adobe no longer requires a license or royalty from the developer. All premium features are now classified as general availability, and can be freely used by Flash applications.
In April 2010, Steve Jobs, at the time CEO of Apple Inc. published an open letter explaining why Apple wouldn't support Flash on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. In the letter he blamed the "openness", the stability, the security and the performance of the Flash Player as reasons for refusing to support it. He explained why Flash is not suitable for touchscreen devices. He also claimed that when one of Apple's Macintosh computers crashes, "more often than not" the cause can be attributed to Flash. Additionally, he described Flash as "buggy". Adobe's CEO Shantanu Narayen responded by saying, "If Flash [is] the number one reason that Macs crash, which I'm not aware of, it has as much to do with the Apple operating system."
Steve Jobs also claimed that a large percentage of the video on the internet is supported on iOS, since many popular video sharing websites such as YouTube have published video content in an HTML5 compatible format, enabling videos to playback in mobile web browsers even without Flash Player.
References and notes
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On September 10 2013, Adobe released Flash Player 184.108.40.206 for Android 2.x and 3.x and 220.127.116.11 for Android 4.0.x
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Starting today, there will be no restrictions on the use of the SWF specification or the FLV and F4V specifications that make up video in Flash. Previously, in order to look at the SWF specification you had to sign a licensing agreement not to use it to create competing players
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