The Adobe Flash Player is software for viewing animations and movies using computer programs such as a web browser. Flash player is a widely distributed proprietary multimedia and application player created by Macromedia and now developed and distributed by Adobe after its acquisition. Flash Player runs SWF files that can be created by the Adobe Flash authoring tool, by Adobe Flex or by a number of other Macromedia and third party tools.
Adobe Flash, or simply Flash, refers to both a multimedia authoring program and the Adobe Flash Player, written and distributed by Adobe, that uses vector and raster graphics, a native scripting language called ActionScript and bidirectional streaming of video and audio. Strictly speaking, Adobe Flash is the authoring environment and Flash Player is the virtual machine used to run the Flash files, but in colloquial language these have become mixed: "Flash" can mean either the authoring environment, the player, or the application files.
The Flash Player was originally designed to display 2-dimensional vector animation, but has since become suitable for creating rich Internet applications and streaming video and audio. It uses vector graphics to minimize file size and create files that save bandwidth and loading time. Flash is a common format for games, animations, and GUIs embedded into web pages.
The Flash Player is available as a plugin for recent versions of web browsers (such as Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer) on selected platforms. Adobe states that each version of the plugin is backwards-compatible, with the exception of security changes introduced in Version 10.