The Flash Player and How It Works

Flash has changed the way that millions have been able to experience the World Wide Web. It enables video clips to be streamed on the fly and without a specialized streaming program, it allows websites to be interactive in ways that they would never be able to achieve with just HTML alone, and it has given birth to a variety of media types such as games and internet cartoons.

What Is a Flash Player?

A Flash Player is the driving force behind allowing flash to be played upon your computer. It’s also what ties your web browser together with the rest of your computer in order to enable you to watch animation and listen to sound in a flash applet.

Flash Players allow you to watch animation, play sounds and music, interact with websites and, perhaps most noticeably, watch streaming media such as videos on YouTube. None of these things would be possible without flash.

Flash Players work with more devices than just your computer. It’s common to see multimedia-enabled smartphones capable of displaying flash applets just as they would be on a much more powerful computer. The reason this works is because each Flash Player acts as an intermediate layer translating SWF files into something that the device can display.

With all of that being said, the most widely used player for flash comes from Adobe. Adobe Flash Player works on a wide variety of systems, including Windows, many Linux distributions, many mobile operating systems and Mac operating systems.

Alternatives to Adobe Flash Player

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many alternative flash players for Windows. There are also no flash players that fully support all the features that the latest version of Adobe Flash does.

The good news is that because of the way SWF files are structured, a number of programs can already utilize the basic components such as SVG graphics and some sound playback. The bad news is that because most features such as streaming media and some graphics exist only in the latest revisions of Flash, these features are rarely supported to any extent in these alternatives to Adobe Flash Player.

One alternative is Gnash. It is a flash player compatible with Windows, Linux and a number of other platforms, but it does not fully support SWF v7, SWF v8 or SWF v9 files.

Swfdec is an alternative standalone player that works on Linux, FreeBSD and OpenBSD.

LightSpark is yet another alternative that is still being completed. It is an alternative player for Fedora and Linux distributions.

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