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What is Flash?

A lightning strike

Want to watch video clips or play games on the net? If so, you’ll need something called ‘Flash Player’ which allows you to watch moving images. You may already have it on your computer, but if not, you can install it for free.

Andrew Stucken | 9th September 2010

To get the best out of the web you will need Flash. Research shows that around 99% of internet users now have it. It is a popular player for video and animation.

Flash is popular with web designers as it allows them to create animated websites containing graphics, games, cartoons or movies. It allows for more interactivity.

And it has the added advantage of being quick to load, thanks to very small file sizes, and the ability to ‘stream’ media. Streaming means that the animation will start to play before the whole file is loaded, thus saving time.

Macromedia created Flash and sold it to Adobe in 2005 – you may also see it referred to as Adobe Flash. It is now standard and many computers already have Flash installed. If yours doesn’t, sites which use the Flash plug-in will prompt you to install it.

As a plugin, it adds extra functions to your web browser. The BBC, for example, uses it on its News site.

How can I download Flash?

You can download Flash for free from Adobe’s website by taking the following steps outlined in our plug-in guide to Flash, where you will find instructions specific to your computer and browser.

Your Flash Player should automatically detect when upgrades are available and prompt you to install them.

Be sure to only download Flash from the official Adobe site (given above) - otherwise you risk getting infected with viruses or Trojans.

Is there a downside?

If you have a very old computer or are using dial-up, you may find Flash frustratingly slow. Lots of animations will really hold up your browsing.

Nevertheless, Flash animations are becoming more and more widespread and are another good reason to upgrade to broadband if you can.

Andrew Stucken

Andrew Stucken

Andrew cut his journalistic teeth with the local press, and has since moved on to writing for major national websites specialising in technology and money-saving. He has also written for The Times and other national newspapers.