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Adobe Flash
Developer Adobe
Release date 1996
Discontinued 2020

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.


Name Platform(s) Latest version Accuracy FLOSS Active Recommended
Adobe Flash Player Windows Linux macOS Web [N 1] Reference
WAFlash Web Web High
Ruffle Windows Linux macOS Web Nightly builds Mid
Lightspark Windows Linux Web [N 1] 0.8.3 Mid ~
swf2js Web JavaScript file download ? ~
AwayFL Web Git ?
GNU Gnash Windows Linux 0.8.10 Low
Open Flash / Doμ Player Web Git ?
Shumway Web Git Low
  1. 1.0 1.1 Web version only available as an NPAPI/PPAPI plugin.


Adobe Flash Player
The official closed-source implementation by Adobe, who discontinued it in 2020. The web version relies on an obsolete plugin API that the major browsers no longer use; many browsers were only keeping the API around specifically for Flash's sake in the years leading up to its discontinuation. Its desktop player is still available for download from Adobe website's debug downloads.
A pure Rust implementation mainly targeting HTML5, but also available as a desktop player. The devs are planning to focus on ActionScript 1 and 2 support first, with AS3 support coming later. Development of Ruffle is sponsored by multiple veteran Flash game archives, most notably Newgrounds. It's progressed to the point where it can run many early Flash games, including the original Flash version of Alien Hominid, as well as playing the vast majority of Homestar Runner toons.
Lightspark & Gnash
Two C++ implementations that somewhat complement each other, and are both designed specifically to provide a FLOSS alternative to Adobe's official players. Lightspark says it has 78% of the APIs covered, while Gnash has focused on older versions of Flash that Lightspark is less likely to support properly, hence why Lightspark can use Gnash as an automatic fallback if both are installed simultaneously. Lightspark's external dependencies would make it cumbersome to port it to HTML5, so it's only available in browsers as a replacement for the official Flash browser plugin.
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.
An HTML5 implementation. Developed rather actively for a few years, under Mozilla sponsorship, but ultimately abandoned in 2016.

See also

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