Adobe Flash Player (labeled Shockwave Flash in Internet Explorer and Firefox) is computer software for using content created on the Adobe Flash platform, including viewing multimedia contents, executing rich Internet applications, and streaming audio and video. Flash Player can run from a web browser as a browser plug-in or on supported mobile devices. Flash Player was created by Macromedia and has been developed and distributed by Adobe Systems since Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005. Flash Player is distributed as freeware.
Flash Player once had a large user base and was a common format for web games, animations, and graphical user interface (GUI) elements embedded in web pages. Adobe stated in 2013 that more than 400 million out of over 1 billion connected desktops update to the new version of Flash Player within six weeks of release. However, Flash Player has become increasingly criticized for its performance, consumption of battery on mobile devices, the number of security vulnerabilities that had been discovered in the software, and its closed platform nature. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was highly critical of Flash Player, having published an open letter detailing Apple's reasoning for not supporting Flash on its iOS device family. Its usage has also waned because of modern web standards that allow some of Flash's use cases to be fulfilled without third-party plugins.
In July 2017, Adobe announced that it would end support for Flash Player at the end of 2020, and continued to encourage the use of open HTML5 standards in place of Flash. The announcement was coordinated with Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla. In September 2019, Microsoft announced that on December 31, 2020 Flash will be entirely removed from all browsers via Windows Update.
Adobe Flash Player is a runtime that executes and displays content from a provided SWF file, although it has no in-built features to modify the SWF file at runtime. It can execute software written in the ActionScript programming language which enables the runtime manipulation of text, data, vector graphics, raster graphics, sound, and video. The player can also access certain connected hardware devices, including the web cameras and microphones, after permission for the same has been granted by the user.
Flash Player is used internally by the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), to provide a cross-platform runtime environment for desktop applications and mobile applications. AIR supports installable applications on Windows, Linux, macOS, and some mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android. Flash applications must specifically be built for the AIR runtime to use additional features provided, such as file system integration, native client extensions, native window/screen integration, taskbar/dock integration, and hardware integration with connected Accelerometer and GPS devices.