While “Flash” was the name of a popular superhero in the 1970s, today the term refers to something completely different. When you see Flash on the Web, it most likely refers to Adobe Flash, a multimedia technology. Flash allows Web developers to incorporate animations and interactive content into their websites.
Flash was originally released by Macromedia in 1996. It began as a basic animation tool and an optional plug-in for Web browsers. Over the next decade, Flash gained many new features and became a standard plugin included with nearly all Web browsers. In 2005, Adobe acquired Macromedia and took over development of the Flash technology. Today, Flash continues to be a ubiquitous Web standard and is included with all major Web browsers.
Because Flash animations can incorporate text and vector graphics, they typically don’t take up a lot of disk space. The contents of a Flash animation may also be compressed to further reduce the file size. This makes it possible for Flash content to be downloaded relatively quickly. Still, large Flash animations may still take a few seconds to load in your browser. Therefore, when you open a Web page and see a “Loading…” animation, it usually means Flash content is being downloaded to your computer.
To view Flash content in your Web browser, the Flash plug-in must be installed. While Flash is automatically installed with most browsers today, some animations may require an updated version of Flash to run. Fortunately, you can download the latest Flash plug-in and standalone Flash Player for free from Adobe’s website.
NOTE: “Flash” may also refer to flash memory. Erasing a flash disk is often called “flashing” the memory.