Macromedia Flash (later Adobe Flash) was a multimedia web browser plug-in that enabled animations, video, and interactive content on websites. Flash was an extremely popular plug-in for more than a decade, but it eventually fell out of favor due to a combination of performance and security problems and the introduction of HTML5 and its multimedia features.

Originally called FutureSplash Animator and released in 1996, Flash first became popular as a vector-based animation tool. It allowed people to easily create animations that could be played back in any web browser with the Flash plug-in installed. Later updates introduced ActionScript (an object-oriented programming language that added new levels of interactivity) and support for high-quality video streaming. By 2010 the Flash plug-in was included by default with most web browsers, and it was common to see interactive games, streaming video, and even entire websites built using Flash.

However, the Flash plug-in had its drawbacks. It was very resource-intensive when content was playing, quickly draining batteries on laptop computers. The plug-in also proved to be a security risk that allowed an attack vector for malware. The lack of support for Flash on Apple's iPhone, and growing browser support for HTML5 video, ultimately caused Adobe to end support for the Flash plug-in in 2020. The animation tool itself was renamed Adobe Animate and now supports HTML5, WebGL, and SVG animation output.

NOTE: "Flash" may also refer to flash memory. Erasing a flash memory cell is often called "flashing" the memory.

Updated January 10, 2023 by Brian P.

quizTest Your Knowledge

What Internet activity uses the SMTP protocol?

Web browsing
File downloading
Email sending
Multiplayer gaming
Correct! Incorrect!     View the Email definition.
More Quizzes →

The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

The definition of Flash on this page is an original definition written by the TechTerms.com team. If you would like to reference this page or cite this definition, please use the green citation links above.

The goal of TechTerms.com is to explain computer terminology in a way that is easy to understand. We strive for simplicity and accuracy with every definition we publish. If you have feedback about this definition or would like to suggest a new technical term, please contact us.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe or change your frequency setting at any time using the links available in each email.

Questions? Please contact us.