Move, Watch & Share Your Videos.

What Is Flash And Is It Here To Stay?

by Tom Volotta on February 5, 2012

FLV PlayerFlash. It’s everywhere.

Just everywhere. You can barely peek into any corner of the Internet without bumping into it in some form or other. Either as a streaming movie, clips posted on YouTube or Facebook, a pop up banner ad, or a simple animation. Although Flash (FLV) and now F4V, an expanded version of the Flash file format specification, has become the de-facto video standard for the Internet worldwide, that reign may be coming to an end.

Apple has been the most vocal critic of Flash, claiming Flash puts excessive burden on the CPU and is responsible for the majority of crashes on its machines. In response, Apple has blocked Flash  from its iOS (iPhone, iTouch and iPad) mobile devices. For its part, even Adobe has announced they are ceasing Flash development for mobile platforms, as more efficient, open source formats like HTML5 gain popularity and fit into the requirements for accessing portable media content consumers are demanding. Some of the larger content distribution providers like YouTube have switched from exclusively offering their material in FLV to include the H-264 format, which is iOS friendly. Flash may also be in jeopardy for the desktop. In particular as more High Definition content is available, which requires playback by more advanced CODECs.

So why is Flash currently so prevalent, and what is the best way for you get the most out of its capabilities? With droves of FLV players available, how do you keep from making choosing one a daunting task?

THE HISTORY OF FLASH

Flash is an Adobe® product, originally developed by another company, Macromedia, and initially, was primarily used as a simple animation platform. Because it was easy to use, it gained popularity in the professional developer community as a way to integrate motion and interactivity into multimedia products. With the addition of more sophisticated video capabilities, the ability to layer and add rich interactive features, along with Adobe’s smart move to offer the required plug-in installer for free (much as they do with Adobe Reader for PDFs) so web browsers could seamlessly playback Flash movies, it became the go-to format. This growth accelerated with the rise of social media websites, particularly YouTube and Facebook, where now anyone with a camcorder, to major corporations, to politicians could upload videos for the world to see, occasionally creating the phenomenon of viral videos.

Watch Flash Videos

When you upload videos to RealPlayer Cloud it takes care of the conversion for you and FLV videos will just play on an iPhone, smartphone, iPad, and even TV. Try RealPlayer Cloud today. It’s free.

In its basic form, the Adobe Flash player is just that, a simple container for a playback engine, designed to respond to particular file formats. This notion of a “container” is important to understand because like some other formats, Flash can actually playback compressed video files such as VP6, H.264 and H.263, along with audio formats AAC and MP3. This adds great versatility to Flash, contributing to its acceptance.

CHOOSING A FLASH PLAYER

While the basic Adobe player plug-in is freely available from Adobe and intended to be embedded in your browser, the content itself may be subject to the usage constraints put on it by the service presenting the material. Adobe has claimed 98% of the video-based content on the Internet is Flash. This is undoubtedly in decline especially as HTML5 gathers steam and variations of MPEG-4, such as H.264 are selected more and more by both producers and content providers. None the less, Flash has spawned armies of developers feeding the expanding need for internet video content, plus another separate industry providing software player variations using Adobe’s core plug-in technology for users who want to do more than just watch the video clips on the web.

There are literally hundreds of FLV players available, many free or shareware. What distinguishes them from one another are the different features layered on top of the basic Adobe playback functionality. These capabilities allow users to download FLV movies, organize them in libraries, convert to other formats for use on mobile devices, employ different skins, use built-in browsers, share the content on social networks, embed meta-data, and generally be flexible and customizable to meet your needs. Another factor is the operating system the individual player is designed to run on. Windows has by far the most offerings, but many of the best free FLV players can also run under Mac or Linux OS.

POPULAR FLV PLAYERS

Some popular and the most versatile are: RealPlayer, GOM Media Player, UMPlayer, VLC Media Player and FLV Player. Many, many others are also available, so if you are the type who wants to make direct comparisons of features, be prepared to take the time and effort to download and experiment with a several players before finding a favorite.

Several developers offer a two-tiered approach to their players, giving away a functional player with many essential features as a free FLV download, while also providing a more advanced version containing extra features and benefits, at an extra cost. Your choice depends completely on how sophisticated your requirements are stacked against the additional cost of the extra features and benefits. Some non-traditional media players can also be made to play FLV movies by requiring additional plug-in software to join with that player in order to properly play Flash. Again, it depends on your needs, but in general, you will probably be better off going with one of the top rated FLV players unless you have the sophistication to modify certain aspects of your system. Of course, you can also upload your FLV videos to the RealPlayer Cloud and then play the FLV videos on the device of your choice. No need to worry about converting files.

THE FUTURE OF FLASH

Like all successful products, Flash has gone through an evolutionary cycle, adding new features, fixing broken ones and looking for ways to better improve its capabilities and serve its customers. The industry is hardly standing still, and Flash may have had its time in the sun. Adobe’s own development teams are certainly working on other file formats, which will offer enhanced experiences for the ever-increasing demands of mobile devices and for the desktop. But other companies are also hard at work expanding their own offerings to keep ahead of the game. Flash isn’t going away anytime soon, so you’ll continue to be able to play, download, upload and perform many other tasks with your FLV content.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angel March 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I get what you’re saying, but it’s not as spmile as that. It’s a very complex issue with a bunch of goals, pro’s, con’s, etc.Having standards compliant technology on mobile devices doesn’t intrinsically make them good. It doesn’t necessarily imply they are easier to develop for. It doesn’t imply they have less risk to develop for. It doesn’t ensure projects that are created have a higher chance of actually succeeding.I do agree that any company that has a monopoly wouldn’t have a motivation to make it better. I don’t think Adobe would necessarily do this because I don’t think that reality would happen. They’ve always been hounded by something since I’ve been here (Microsoft with Silverlight, browser vendors with AJAX, etc). The realities are, whatever success they enjoyed would have to be immediately defended. I agree, though, about to what degree and for how long . Java/J2ME was THE WAY to build mobile apps (well, excluding all the great C and C++ work I’ve seen). Are they on iPhone? Nope. Oracle dropped the ball, too, not just Adobe.Bottom line, Flash makes it pretty easy to make applications that aren’t that sophisticated. A lot of times that’s all users need. Not allowing that is a shame: to users, to Adobe stockholders, to Apple stockholders, to me, to my clients, etc.Adobe isn’t completely full of shit, although, I’ve yet to see any acknowledgment that they dropped the ball, and those religious zealots who have given them the benefit of the doubt regards to their mobile strategies have suffered for doing so for so long.Additionally, there are a ton of things Flash cannot do. For me, the metric has been the more text, the less likely you’ll need Flash (Gmail, news sites, etc). The web as you describe it is an amalgamation of technologies; it just so happens that right now, HTML/CSS/JS are the dominant technologies with Flash for video. Even that is an oversimplification. My point here is that Flash Player cannot become the de-facto standard for mobile, and I don’t feel like Adobe has pitched it that way.Adobe just wants our community, known for laying the funk, to have the ability to do so on mobile.

2 Tom Volotta March 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm

You’re absolutely right, nothing in this world of digital media is simple. It is indeed complex. So much so, that sometimes I wonder how it all manages to work together in the first place. I don’t believe I made light of any technology.

I don’t think I was criticizing Adobe about Flash in any way. It has it’s good points, and has in fact been the de facto standard for a good deal of online video for some time. As I pointed out though, that is changing as other file formats are proving their worth in delivering high quality video, especially on the Internet and on mobile devices in an efficient way. I am well aware of Apple’s objections to Flash, and it is their prerogative to define the type of software which can run on products Apple makes. As for Adobe dropping further development of Flash for mobile devices, that was Adobe’s decision. Presumably because their research and development is telling them there are other alternatives that will deliver a superior experience to the end user.

Thank you for the time you took to comment.

3 G S Roux April 30, 2012 at 11:47 am

Thanks

4 calvin May 11, 2012 at 11:50 pm

it do no’t play no dvd

5 calvin May 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

i need some help the play dvd

6 Tom Volotta May 13, 2012 at 10:46 am

Not that this has anything to do with Flash, but I’d suggest starting here:
https://real.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/8545/kw/dvd%20play/p/9
so you can be more specific with identifying the problem and finding a solution.

7 Jay July 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Wondering if you can help with my question….
I have Google TV. Adobe has backed out of mobile and set top box platforms and GTV has no update for flash. I’m trying to watch something on superpass which is real player based. I need flash 11.2 but can’t get it because the GTV flash is propitiatory. Any ideas here? I’ve written to Adobe, Google, Superpass with no help. Am I basically just S.O.L. with my GTV.
Thanks for any help you may be able to offer…or for even acknowledging the question if you do….

8 Tom Volotta July 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I think I understand the issue, however that doesn’t mean I’ve got a solution for you.

If you’re saying GTV requires Flash 11.2, and that 11.2 is proprietary to GTV, but can’t get an update from them – it looks like the responsibility is in Google TV’s lap. From your description, they’re the ones apparently requiring the custom Flash, which seems to be the problem. It sounds like they’ve got you running around in circles.

I don’t think the conflict is with SuperPass, as SP doesn’t require Flash 11.2.

Given all that, the only suggestion I have is to go back to Google TV Support or maybe Customer Service, and press them on the proprietary Flash issue. Sorry I can’t offer anything more solid.

…TV

9 Tom Volotta July 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Jay,

Your problem with Google TV has bugged me since I gave you the simplistic suggestion that GTV is the source. I’ll still hang on to that for now though, assuming a special GTV version of Adobe Flash is required, and GTV won’t provide it. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t though.

Are you positive “the GTV Flash is proprietary” to Google TV? I scoured GTV and Adobe, and didn’t see a reference for that. The current version of Flash is 11.3. SuperPass doesn’t require 11.2 or 11.3.

There are others factors that could be involved.

As you noted, Adobe will no longer be developing Flash for a number of devices. They have a major stake in seeing their flavor of HTML5 file formats and codecs are implemented, and have diverted resources accordingly. In that regard, no version of Adobe Flash is compatible with the recently released Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) OS. Although very new, is it possible you upgraded to 4.1?

You also didn’t mention what GTV platform you’re running on, so I’m wondering if that hardware and/or its firmware might also be a factor in why you can’t watch SuperPass?

GTV has been blocked by a good many online video programming services, but SuperPass is not one. Are you having trouble watching other channels or content providers through Google TV? Which ones are working for you?

Anyway, still no definite solution to pass along to you. Just mentioning other elements that might be gumming up the works. Please let us know how things turn out.

Thanks.

…TV

10 Kyshia Jordan August 3, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Hey I need help trying to download a free flash drive for school so can you help me through this

11 Tom Volotta August 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm

There are a few ways to do this, sometimes depending on the USB Flash device and preferences you have set on your computer. Here’s a simple, straightforward way to get it done.

After downloading any video with RealPlayer, it will automatically be placed in the RP Library.

1. Plug the USB Flash Drive into your computer.
2. Open the Windows Start menu and select Computer
3. A window will appear showing all the internal and external devices connected to the computer. Verify your USB drive is there.
4. Click on the video thumbnail in the RealPlayer Library you want to move, and drag it to the USB drive icon in the computer devices window in step 3.
5. Note: If you have specific folders on the USB drive for Video or otherwise, open the USB drive to see the contents, and drag the new video where appropriate.
6. A window with a Progress bar will show you the video being moved. It’s usually very fast.
7. Double check the video has indeed transferred to the USB Flash Drive by clicking on the name of the drive and/or the folder to see the video file. Check the Properties to confirm the title name, running time and file format match the original.
8. Eject the USB drive before removing it from the computer.

You can now transport the video(s) wherever you want, and load on any device that allows playback (or conversion) of that format.

Get back to me if you run into any problems.

…TV

12 Darius Detwiler August 12, 2012 at 8:25 am

The question around Flash is of interest to me, since I work in education were virtually all published content is going from print to electronic classrooms, FLASH and XML are the programs of choice. Adobe would be wise to evolve its products to keep up with the demands by its users and technology. Good example is MUSE: Adobe engineers have decided to create a user-friendly web development program specifically for graphic designers or anyone that is not XML or HTML 5 savvy—yes, there are mortals on this planet who care less about writing code; It will also revolutionize how web sites will be designed and developed in the future. FLASH will also go through this evolution. It has to. At the moment, it’s too complex (too many layers, bells and whistles) and therefore memory laden. And if Adobe can simplify the program, make it more user friendly, and intuitive across all technologies, they should—If they don’t, someone else will.

13 Tom Volotta August 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm

You’ve made several good points. Rest assured, Adobe is well aware of the evolution away from Flash as the standard format and player for Internet video. Flash pioneered Internet video, but things have changed. Adobe announced the end of Flash development for mobile devices some time ago, and are devoting considerable research and engineering resources to HTML5. Sorting out which of the two (Open Source or Proprietary) file format and codec proposals will be the HTML5 standard has yet to be decided. It’s possible both could be adopted.

Yes, web creation tools for those who can’t or don’t want to write code are necessary. Several inexpensive, non-professional grade products are available now, each with limitations. Adobe’s Dreamweaver has always been an excellent, higher level, software application that allows both graphic designers to use a friendly UI, plus have professional code-writers dig in deeper to implement more complex, specialized features.

Coding from the bottom – up will always be necessary for many kinds of websites.

Muse is Adobe’s attempt to integrate the high quality design features of Dreamweaver into a package that has the ease of use features many of the non-professional, non-code writing products offer, but with more sophistication.

Muse is more than that though. It’s subscription-based (instead of the usual fixed price) is one difference. This could be a good deal, particularly if it also applies to Adobe providing upgrades over the life of the product, at the subscription price you initially bought into. The other aspect of Muse is it’s intent to be an entree to Adobe’s Creative Cloud service, where Muse can integrate with other Creative Suite products. Hosting services are also available.

Not being a computer programmer myself, Adobe’s description of Muse is indeed an attractive option. I would need to look into whether it’s capabilities and the subscription pricing made sense for me. The Creative Cloud adds several other layers of terrific applications, work-flow integration and cloud storage that requires more analysis to determine if it’s right for you or your organization.

Thanks for commenting, and for mentioning Muse.

…TV

14 Imran November 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm

It takes such a long time to install and flv player i downloaded it from google and when i try to abort it it is not aborting .

15 Tom Volotta November 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

If you’re talking about downloading Adobe’s Flash player, and you’re having problems, you’ll need to check in with Flash Support. I don’t quite know what you mean on the “abort” stuff. What are you aborting?

If this is regarding playing FLV files on RealPlayer, please be more specific about the exact problem. Again, not sure what the abort thing is.

…TV

16 Lloyd April 25, 2013 at 9:56 pm

How come my Real Plus 15 subscription always downloaded MP4 files fine, but now, it’ll only download FLV files fine, but NOT MP4 files? I didn’t pay for this.

17 RealPlayer Team April 26, 2013 at 9:56 am

Hi Lloyd,

Please send an email to help@real.com Include a brief description of the issue, and copy and paste the link to this thread within the email for further assistance.

18 Jim Bagwell July 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

your REAL products seem to be 2 steps behind.

With all the hacking the others have improved their security products and they are blocking your products

19 RealPlayer Team July 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Hi Jim,

Thank you for taking the time to share your comments with us. I have forwarded your feedback to the appropriate team. Your insights and opinions will help us in our ongoing efforts to enhance our products and services.

If you would like to suggest any other improvements to RealPlayer, please send future suggestions to realplayer-feedback@realnetworks.com.

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