The Adobe Flash Player 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, but there also exist versions running directly on an operating system intended both for regular users and content developers, denoted with the Projector (or Standalone) and Debugger name suffixes, respectively. 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.
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.
- 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.