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Adobe Flash

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Adobe Flash PlayerDevelopers: Adobe Systems, Macromedia, FutureWave
Target platforms: Web browsers, iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS X
Editor software: Adobe Animate, Flash Builder, FlashDevelop, Powerflasher FDT, Flash Catalyst, Scaleform
Player software: Flash Player, Adobe AIR, Scaleform, Gnash, Lightspark
Formats: SWF FLV FLA
Programming language: ActionScript
Applications: Animation, Browser games, Rich Internet applications, Desktop applications, Mobile apps, Mobile games, console games, computer games
License: Proprietary

Adobe Flash or Flash, formerly Macromedia Flash, is a software that allows the manipulation of vector graphics, bitmaps and ActionScript scripts to create multimedia content (animations, videos, games, applications, …) to be published on the Internet. Flash Player, developed and distributed by Macromedia and acquired by Adobe Systems in 2005, is itself a client application available in most web browsers. This software allows the audio and video  two-way broadcast stream. In short, Adobe Flash is an integrated development environment (IDE), a virtual machine used by a Flash player or Flash server to read Flash files. But the term “flash” may refer to a player, an environment or an application file.

Since its launch in 1996, Flash technology has become one of the most popular method for adding animation and interactivity to web page. Many creation and OS software are able to create or display Flash. This is commonly used to create animation, advertisements, or video games. It also allows integration of streaming video in a page, up to the development of rich media applications. Flash files, usually called “Flash movies”, feature the .SWF extension. They can be included in a web page and read by the browser Flash plugin, or read independently in the Flash Player.


Open-source community

A very long standoff Macromedia and Adobe opposed to the open-source community, which protested against the fact that, unlike its predecessor, Adobe Director, Flash was compiling a proprietary scripting language. The quarrel ended in 2008 on a ground with the development of Alchemy compiler that can compile C, C ++ and assembler, in managed mode, which allowed among other porting many old MS-DOS games as well as arcade and console emulators, or Flash versions of the Unreal and Unity 3D engines. Now, Flash technology is compatible with the working world of open source.

Web integration

Although Flash is used on many websites, it is not part of the W3C standards, and therefore, as such, it is not part of recognized Internet standards. Although Adobe has published the partial specifications of Flash (excluding video codecs, for example), there is no public reference documentation, and it is therefore impossible to make a standard which, by definition, must be publicly documented.

The lack of public documentation and lack of standardization limit the capacity of third parts for the development of compatible add-ons. Indeed, although a Flash plugin is pre-installed on a large number of public computers, some operating systems, free or not, do not have a compatible module.

On its website, Adobe Flash shows as “one of the tools for the Web,” but its use has been criticized, especially by proponents of open standards.

Interoperability issues

The Flash format is not standardized, specifications being opened only recently (for writing a drive), as the RTMP protocol interoperability problems arise.

For a long time the search engines did not index the Flash elements. Cascading style sheets are not applicable to a Flash object, except via the native objects Texfield that can display the simplified HTML (formatting tag mainly) being able to use CSS styles or AIR engine that incorporates a webkit engine and can display full HTML pages. The absence of plugin makes this format to be hardly readable on some platforms. The browser search functions do not access the Flash content. The browsing history does not include Flash content, so it is impossible to return to a stage of a multi-page form for example. It is impossible to make a hyperlink to an element Flash content: only the page containing the item can be linked; However SWFAddress allows it.

Accessibility of content

After being strongly criticized on this point until 2003, Flash is entering the category of technologies compatible with accessibility in accordance with WCAG2.0 standard (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) of the W3C: the functions of accessibility is included in the plugin for Flash player 6.

Security issues

By default, Flash Player allows the use of the webcam and the computer’s microphone. Most users do not change the configuration of their software, and there was in the past malware that used the webcam and microphone. It is a breach of privacy and security.

Many advertisements are based on using animated banners in Flash. It is sufficient that the server hosting the ads to be compromised for a malicious program to be sent to users when they visit a website. Fortunately, today Flash is used less and less, and it is enough to not activate it in the browser to be protected.

Despite numerous updates, the nature of the algorithm allows a perfect breeding ground for Trojans and other spyware. According to the site CVE Details, during the last 10 years, the Flash Player was the target of 338 attacks. Precisely for these security vulnerabilities, Apple is one of the first major players in the market that refuses to integrate the software into its iPhone and iPad devices, opting instead to the HTTP-based streaming.

According to a IPSA report entitled “Illegal Streaming and Cyber Security Risks”, one of the most successful ways to spread computer viruses is the illegal streaming video sites that use Flash Player. Unlike legal sites, illegal sites include “custom” video players that invite users to install updates for their Flash player. This update, instead of broadcasting video on demand, installs a Trojan or similar malicious software on the user’s computer. Depending on the types of infections, the program can run in the background and open multiple TCP ports, create a command and control interface and communicate with the manager. The computer is then transformed into a “bot” or “zombie”.

Translated from Wikipedia

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