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It was in 1996, only 4 years after the birth of the World Wide Web that a company known as Macromedia started developing graphical user interfaces, or GUIs for web developer use. One of the GUIs they developed and released that year was known as Flash. Of course a lot has changed in that short period of time since its inception, but one thing remains the same and that is that it is a very popular means of animating and interacting with those animations on the web.

Along with the rest of Macromedia including Dreamweaver and Fireworks, the Adobe Corporation bought the rights to Flash which is why most people refer to it as Adobe Flash. Today, Flash is used for a number of purposes like creating rich navigational elements, advertisements and the entire site of YouTube makes use of the Flash format in every one of their videos as designated by the .flv suffix.

Unfortunately, one of the major downfalls is that search engines cannot currently traverse Flash navigation on a website. However, as long as alternate text links are also available then indexing of the website should still be accomplished eventually.

Using the ActionScipt scripting language, Flash is able to manipulate both vector as well as raster images. It is capable of supporting both audio as well as video in a bi-directional stream as well. For viewing Flash files on the internet, a simple plug-in is necessary, however viewing those files off line on your desktop requires the download of a special viewing program.

It is also important to point out that when playing online “Flash” games, one will notice the .swf suffix for the file extension rather than the .flv and may also have to download a separate plug-in for their browser. This is because the .swf file is actually a ShockWave file which is very similar to Flash. ShockWave however is more commonly associated with rich interactions such as games and advanced navigational elements.

It was Jonathan Gay who came up with the idea for Flash while attending college. Later on when he was working at Silicon Beach Software he would begin developing it. He would later team up with Michelle Welsh and Charlie Jackson in 1993 to start up the FutureWave Software Company whose first product was known as SmartSketch. This particular program was developed for stylus type computers that ran on the PenPoint OS, but would later be ported to both Microsoft as well as Mac OS after it became a failure.

It was at this same time that the Internet began to flourish and FutureWave realised that their SmartSketch could easily be modified to compete against the already released Macromedia ShockWave. In 1995, they dealt with the modifications which were basically adding the allowance for frame-by-frame animations. The very first version of Flash was actually known as FutureSplash and was released that year.

The following year, Macromedia would purchase the rights for this program to keep it out of competition and renamed it to Flash as a contraction of the FutureSplash name it once had. It was in November of 1996 that the all new Flash version 1 would be officially released to the public complete with a development GUI for web developers.

The following year Flash would be updated to include an object library and thus Flash 2 was born. By 1998 though, a whole new Flash was created and included the movie clip element as well as a JavaScript integration plug-in and a stand alone flash player. By 1999 with the release of Flash 3, there was the ability to make use of internal variables as well as streaming MP3 sound and even an input field.

In order to be kept up to date with W3C standards, in 2000, version 5 of Flash was released with ECMAScript capabilities making it cross browser compatible. Furthermore, this version also included support for XML, HTML text, Samrtclips and even dynamic text.

The biggest release would be in the following year when version 6 was released in the first Macromedia Studios MX package. With video codec capabilities, the flash format was now able to be a fully streaming video format like what is used on video websites today. Furthermore, the AtionScipt drawing API for vector images was also included allowing the developer to make hand drawn vector images scale, rotate, change colours and a whole lot more.

Since Macromedia’s absorption into Adobe, the Flash format has been developed even further and can be added into a number of designed components whether for use on a desktop or even on the internet. Flash is a very popular development tool for websites and within time, assuming the developers at the search engines focus on making their spiders capable of traversing a flash file, you can expect to see some major improvements of rich, user friendly web developments in the coming years. Of course even if the search engines still are unable to traverse the elements, people will and do in fact prefer using Flash for an undeniably rich website design.

 

Original Authors: Nick
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 09/02/2009


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