J.D. Fox Micro Resource Center
Website Media and Interactivity
Web browsers historically have not been able to display animations or videos by themselves, although this is changing with the emergence of HTML 5. During the lifetime of the web back to the 1990s, many software packages offered by different developers, when paired with the matching technology used by the web site itself, have enabled easy viewing of videos and interactive animation. These are still quite relevant for the millions of websites that don't yet use HTML 5. Each of these programs will integrate with your web browser so that when you visit a website that requires it, the content will play automatically.
These same software packages have been extended over the years to allow them to function as interactive applications to support web-based utilities and games. The newer packages extend this functionality even beyond your web browser.
Adobe Flash Player
Download Flash Player from Adobe
This link will identify your browser and download the correct program files to enable Flash in the browser you're currently using. Flash installs differently for Microsoft Internet Explorer than for other browsers, so if you have multiple browsers installed on your computer, you should visit this link twice: once using Internet Explorer, and once in any other browser. Then, visit the version checker below in every one of your browsers.
Note the download page linked here might show, right up front, that Google Chrome and/or the Google Toolbar will install with this, unless you uncheck the box to indicate you don't want it. You do not need these for Adobe Flash to work properly. It is merely presented on the download page as part of a marketing arrangement between Google and Adobe.
More about Flash
Flash Player was originally developed by Macromedia in 1995 to play cartoonish animations on web pages. It is now owned by Adobe, the same company that produces Photoshop and Acrobat. It is probably the most common website extension technology of any type, now most often used for videos (including YouTube) and other functions such as Internet speed tests and simple video games. Unlike some other web-based video players, Flash is not really designed to work with separately downloaded Flash files; its whole paradigm revolves around displaying Flash content (animations and videos) in your web browser.
Flash is available for many computer platforms. Some computer manufacturers pre-install it for you, in which case you still might want to upgrade to the latest version. Some web browsers (such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox) have it included already, or will help you download and install it easily.
For Linux-based computers, you can utilize the latest version of Flash only through the Chrome browser, by installing what's called the Pepper Flash Player plug-in. For other browsers in Linux, Adobe only offers version 11.2 for download, which was first released back in March 2012, although it still is being updated with security patches to the present day.
If you visit a website that requires Flash, the site will usually tell you if you don't have it installed. But, don't click on the link there, since it might be a ruse to get you to download something else. Come back here to get the correct links if you need to update.
As for mobile devices, Apple does not allow Flash to work on the iPhone or iPad, mainly because this competes with Apple's QuickTime (see below). Apple provides other methods for accessing popular Flash-based sites (like YouTube) through a separate application on the iPhone or iPad just for those sites, or by using HTML 5 (if the site supports it).
Flash is generally supported on newer versions of other mobile devices, such as those based on Windows Mobile and Android. It only works on some BlackBerry phones and tablets.
Anyway, given all that, if you simply want to download the latest version of Flash, use the link above. If you use the Google Chrome web browser, update Flash by updating Google Chrome itself, not by downloading from Adobe.
More Flash-related links
For advanced users. This page provides direct links to:
- The ActiveX installer for Internet Explorer only, both .exe and .msi
- The Plug-In for all other browsers in Microsoft Windows, both .exe and .msi.
- .dmg installers for Mac computers.
- Installers for Linux and Solaris operating systems.
Adobe automatically updates the files on this page with the latest version with all patches and updates. They also offer a slightly older version (currently Flash 13), and keep it secure with any needed patches; this is only intended for people running unusual Flash applications that have problems running on newer versions of Flash.
For the Windows direct downloads, you might remember there were separate direct download files for the 32-bit and 64-bit Flash Player for Microsoft Windows. Since version 11.3, both versions are now included in one file, which runs on 32-bit or 64-bit operating systems. As you can see, the ActiveX installer and the installer for all other browsers are still separate.
The Linux/Solaris downloads are only for version 11.2 (with updates and patches for security), since Adobe ceased further development of the standalone Flash Player for Linux and Solaris after that. As mentioned above, to use the current version of Flash in Linux, use the Google Chrome browser.
Adobe requires you to fill out a web form and get approval before you are licensed to copy the installer to other computers (a simple process). The link to Adobe's form is on the page linked above, and presented below as well.
Get free distribution permission for Adobe software
Use this link if you want to install Flash on a computer that doesn't support the latest version, such as a PowerPC-based Mac, or a computer running Microsoft Windows 98. For advanced users only.
Adobe Shockwave Player
Shockwave is very similar to Flash, and was also developed originally by Macromedia. Back when Flash only supported flat cartoons, Shockwave was a more sophisticated version that supported 3D imagery and animation, and was often used for games you could play in your web browser. It's hardly ever mentioned any more, but it is still available for download in case you come across a Shockwave game you would like to play.
Microsoft developed Silverlight to be the next generation of Adobe Flash. First released in 2007, it functions much like Flash; that is, it is designed to work within your web browser to display animated and interactive content on the web page. But, it can extend beyond just your web browser to take website interactivity and data management to a new level.
Examples of sites using Silverlight are Netflix and parts of msnbc.com, and other television stations that broadcast their shows on the Internet. At this time, Silverlight is mostly used for streaming video.
If you visit a web site that requires Silverlight, the site will inform you of this. But, don't click on the link there, since it might be a ruse to get you to download something else. Come back here to get the correct links if you need to update.
Silverlight is available for most combinations of computer platform and web browser, including Apple computers. Support for mobile phones is extremely limited at this time. For Linux-based or UNIX-based operating systems, including Mac OS X, a separately developed version of Silverlight, called Moonlight, was available from the Mono Project, but this project is no longer being maintained, so we have removed the links to it from this page.
This is similar to Microsoft Silverlight, and was developed by Adobe around the same time. Back then, Adobe focused on promoting AIR applications that are web-based but run outside your web browser, which make them much more versatile. Around 2008, Yahoo, AOL, FedEx, and eBay all helped develop AIR-based applications, which link into the information you might normally get from their websites to perform functions related to their services (such as track a package, or place a bid). However, these applications did not catch on, for whatever reason, and very soon the iPhone and Android apps paradigm came to fruition, rendering Adobe AIR irrelevant to mobile phones and tablets anyway. Meanwhile, anyone with a desktop or laptop computer still just opens a web browser, goes to the relevant site, and gets what he needs without using AIR.
So, anyway, enough beating up on Adobe AIR. If you have downloaded Adobe Reader on your computer, you might already have Adobe AIR, because this is bundled with it. If you need to run an AIR application, however, and do not have it installed yet, of course, simply download it below.
Adobe doesn't have a page that will just show you the version of AIR on your computer, but here is a link to an article on their site describing how to determine what version you have. This is for advanced users only; it's not a full step-by-step.
This was introduced way back in 1991 for Apple computers, and was the first software that enabled watching full motion video from a data file on a personal computer. It became available for Windows in 1994. For a long time, QuickTime format video was very commonly found on websites, but this has been superseded in popularity by other formats.
Like other video player downloads here, you generally only need this if you have been sent a QuickTime file you can't open (.mov or .qt), or are unable to view video on a website that specifically says it requires QuickTime. It's also nice for watching a video recorded by an iPhone or iPad, because it knows how to rotate the image depending on how the phone was held during recording, while other players might not.
Apple products all come with QuickTime pre-installed, but you can use the link below to see if a new version is available. The link below will detect whether you're running Windows or Mac, and offer the appropriate file to download.
RealPlayer by RealNetworks
Although RealMedia-formatted audio and video files have been around a long time and were once very popular, computers do not generally come with the software needed to view them. You must install the RealPlayer application by RealNetworks to view these files or watch streaming RealMedia audio/video on a website. RealPlayer, however, is a full-featured audio/video media management application, not just a web browser enhancement like the rest of the downloads on this page. Click here to download and/or read more about RealPlayer and other media management programs.
Microsoft Windows Media Player for Mac
If you need to play Windows Media files from a website (such as a .wmv file), and it does not work on your iMac or MacBook, you can use Flip4Mac from Telestream. This enables the QuickTime application on your Mac to play Windows Media files. This was formerly a free download from Microsoft, but now costs $5.95 for the basic player. The link below goes directly to Telestream's page.