Flash

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Adobe Flash
Developer Adobe
Release date 1996
Discontinued 2020
Emulated

Flash (previously FutureSplash Animator, before that SmartSketch) is a software platform created by FutureWave Software, and currently owned by Adobe (previously Macromedia). Originally a drawing program for PenPoint OS, later ported to Windows and Macintosh when pen computing failed to take off, frame-by-frame animation features were added to it in a new program called FutureSplash Animator. The company was acquired by Macromedia in December 1996, rebranding FutureSplash Animator to Flash, an amalgamation of "Future" and "Splash". In turn, Macromedia was acquired by Adobe on December 3, 2005. Their operations, networks, and customer care organizations were merged shortly after.

Used by an overwhelming majority of websites in the early 2000s to the mid-2010s, Flash has been the go-to platform for multimedia and animation, being utilised for streaming video providers such as YouTube, children's websites due to its rich content, and has spawned a subculture of animators as exemplified by the likes of Newgrounds. A number of popular animated series were also animated using Flash, most notably My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Phineas and Ferb and Happy Tree Friends to name a few.

Flash's popularity declined in the late 2010s due to the rise of alternative (and open) web standards such as HTML5 and mobile device manufacturers dropping support for the platform, a prominent example being Apple who publicly stated that iOS will never support Flash. Google followed suit when it dropped support for the platform in subsequent Android releases, and it didn't help that a series of security issues, coupled with Flash itself being a closed standard, has led Adobe to wind down on Flash and retire it in 2020.

Implementations

Name Platform(s) Latest version FLOSS Active Recommended
Ruffle Windows Linux macOS Web Nightly builds
Lightspark Windows Linux Web 0.8.3 ~
swf2js Web JavaScript file download ~
Adobe Flash Player Windows Linux macOS Web 32.0.0.465
GNU Gnash Windows Linux 0.8.10
Open Flash / Doμ Player Web Git
Shumway Web Git

Comparisons

Ruffle
A Rust implementation that compiles to, among other systems, WebAssembly. This allows Ruffle to be directly hosted by websites without the need for anything to be installed client-side. This is also true of other HTML5-based Flash implementations, although Ruffle in particular is also available as a browser extension. The devs state it has ActionScript 1 and 2 support, with AS3 support coming later, estimated to be several months. Being sponsored by Newgrounds, it has progressed to the point where it can play the original Flash version of Alien Hominid, many early Flash games, and the vast majority of Homestar Runner toons.
Lightspark
A C++ implementation. Says it has 78% of the APIs covered.
swf2js
An open-core HTML5 implementation that uses a dynamic recompiler. The open-source "Free Version" supports limited features, such as AS1, AS2 and ZLIB compression, whereas the payware "Production Version" supports further features, such as AS3 and LZMA compression.
Adobe Flash Player
The official closed-source implementation by Adobe. It was discontinued in 2020.
Gnash
Another C++ implementation.
Shumway
An HTML5 implementation. It was sponsored by Mozilla but later abandoned.

See also

  • Flashpoint - preservation effort for games designed in commercial web frameworks (not just Flash).