What is Flash and What Does It Do?

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What is Flash and What Does It Do?

What is Flash and What Does It Do?

Flash is something that you probably here a lot on the Internet, especially if you’re looking for more ways to stay safe or protect yourself from viruses. You might also have seen Flash in your settings in places like your web browser and wondered if you really need it. For those who are confused, here is a mostly non-technical explanation of what Flash is, how it works, and how you can approach it when using the Internet.

What is Flash?

Flash, Shockwave Flash, Adobe Flash, or Macromedia Flash are all the same thing, depending on the age of your installed version and your computer. The most recent name is Adobe Flash, so if you don’t have that, you should consider upgrading.

Flash loads graphics such as animations, photos, and videos onto your browser or computer, allowing you to see them. Flash allows direct integration of video, photos, games, and other data directly onto the web, without complex coding, which makes it easier for multiple users to upload data, such as YouTube videos. In fact, YouTube was originally entirely flash based, as all of their videos loaded using a Flash player. Today, most of the web runs on HTML5, which is not Flash compatible, so it is rare to see Flash on everyday websites.

Who Uses Flash

Flash is considerably less common on the web than it used to be, but it is still fairly easy to come across it. Some of the most common places you will find Flash include Facebook or other social media game apps, graphics apps, some websites in places like menus or auto-loading slideshows, and some graphics heavy websites.

In 2015, Google launched a program called Google Swiffy which automatically converts Flash websites to non-Flash for mobile browsers on iOS, that do not support Flash. Adobe is also switching support from Flash for mobile to Adobe Air, while many browsers are adding on options to block Flash until you need it. In fact, if you use Safari, you will automatically have this function, and will have to press “start Flash” to see the Flash data. Essentially, Flash is on the way out, and within five years, we might not see it at all. For the time being, it’s still quite common on the web, especially if you look at restaurants, play web or browser based games, and it’s very frequently used to build games and mobile games.

Why Is Flash Dangerous?

Flash has a number of vulnerabilities, many of which have been fixed, but is still one of the largest vulnerabilities in many browsers, next to Java. Flash has a number of implementationional vulnerabilities, which means that the vulnerabilities are part of how the program works, rather than a design flaw or bug. It also has multiple vulnerabilities, and can be a major security risk, even on websites you trust.

Best Practices For Flash

While Flash is becoming less and less a part of the Internet, many people still interact with it on a daily basis.

Some Internet browsers will allow you to block Flash, or allow you to use a “Click to Play” function. This is ideal if you want to keep playing Facebook games but don’t want to risk your computer while browsing the web.

Mozilla FireFox – Use NoScript or FlashBlock Extensions on FireFox, as it does not include a built in click to play option for Flash. Mozilla does automatically block most other plugins by default, like Silverlight.

Google Chrome – Google has a built-in click to play Flash setting that you can access by going to “Settings”, “Advanced Settings”, “Privacy”, and then “Content”. You will see Click to Play under Plugins. Check the selection to activate it.

Internet Explorer – While the best way to manage Internet Explorer is to replace it with something else, you can find the click to play settings on this browser if you want to keep it. Click the Gear icon on the IE toolbar, select “manage add-ons”, select “Toolbars and Extensions”, locate Shockwave Flash Object, left click on it and select “More Information”. Select “Remove All Sites” from the bottom of the menu that pops up, and close it.

Safari – Go to the Safari menu, select “preferences”, select “Security”, and then choose “Manage Website Settings”, you can then change your plugin settings individually. Find Adobe Flash Player, and set the “When Visiting Other Websites” area to ‘Ask’, which means that you will have an option to turn it on or off.

Flash is still an incredibly useful application on most of the web, but it does have security risks. For that reason, you should make sure you aren’t loading every flash application you come across. It will also save your bandwidth to turn off automatic loading, which is a plus for you.

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Proliferate writer, sesquipedalian, techie, Apple fangirl (don't judge),tree hugger, yogi, tea drinker, zombie hunter. Into philotherianism & philomathy. Love my job. Visit me on Google +

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