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Introducing Adobe Flash Player 9

In September 2005, Macromedia introduced Flash Player 8, which delivered revolutionary new expressiveness and rendering performance—including bitmap effects, filters, alpha video, and a new video codec for Flash video. We expanded the capabilities of the runtime to improve Flash-to-browser communication with the External API. We also enabled file upload and download functionality for complex, sophisticated applications.

All of these new features led to a rapid proliferation of Flash 8 content on the Internet, driving the fastest adoption of Flash Player in its history. A study conducted in April 2006 by NPD Group Research, an independent research company, showed Flash Player 8 at 69% penetration only six months after its release. In comparison, Flash Player 5 and Flash Player 6 were at 53% penetration during the same point in their cycles.

Flash Player 9 builds on the innovations of Flash Player 8 by bringing even more power to the runtime through ActionScript 3.0, an important update to the ActionScript language. ActionScript 3.0 delivers a robust programming model, ground-breaking performance, and compliance with the ECMAScript standard. The language provides a familiar syntax, compelling new language features, and up to 10 times faster performance so you can rapidly build a new generation of rich media and rich Internet applications.

This is just a brief introduction to Flash Player 9. There is much to cover, and other articles and resources (see below) go into more specific detail about the language.

Delivering more power and performance with ActionScript 3.0

ActionScript first appeared in Flash Player 4 to enable simple scripting of interactivity within Flash content. It was not very sophisticated and its syntax and semantics were quite different from ECMAScript. Through the years, the language has evolved towards providing more APIs and object-oriented language constructs to make it easier to build increasingly complex applications using ActionScript.

As we looked at our goals for Flash Player 9, however, we realized that it would be too limiting to continue to evolve the existing engine. We wanted to create a watershed moment in the history of Flash Player, and to deliver it we needed to be able to innovate without constraint.

As a result, ActionScript 3.0 is essentially a full rewrite of the ActionScript engine. ActionScript 3.0 executes in a new, highly-optimized virtual machine known as AVM2, which we built for efficiency and performance. Although AVM2 will be the primary virtual machine for ActionScript execution going forward, Flash Player will continue to support the older AVM1 for backwards compatibility with existing and legacy content.

In addition to increased performance and more efficient memory utilization, ActionScript 3.0 delivers a programming model that will be familiar to developers coming from other platforms. We focused on making the behavior of the language more consistent and standard. There are hundreds of new APIs for features such as E4X, regular expressions, and binary sockets to give you even greater control over your content and applications. The addition of classes, interfaces, packages, namespaces, and an optional compilation mode that enforces strongly typed variables makes ActionScript 3.0 attractive for large application development.

These new language features are based on the ECMAScript 4 Netscape Proposal. Adobe is an active participant in the ECMA International Programming Language technical committee (TC39-TG1) developing the ECMAScript Edition 4 (ES4) standard. Future versions of ActionScript 3.0 are expected to be fully compatible with the emerging ES4 standard.

We hope the features and benefits of ActionScript 3.0 will benefit all of you—as well as attract new developers to the technology—by delivering a solid foundation for a new generation of rich experiences.

To learn more about the goals and features of ActionScript 3.0, read ActionScript 3.0 Overview.

Getting to 80%

One question I often hear from developers is how the timing of this release will impact player adoption, because this is frequently an important factor in their decision to start publishing to the latest SWF version. You may not know this but, historically, new releases of Flash Player take 12 months to reach 80% penetration (see Figure 1). Adoption follows a fairly consistent curve—the rates of adoption of Flash Player 6 and Flash Player 7 were almost identical. Flash Player 8 experienced unprecedented adoption in the first quarter of its release, in part due to the auto-update feature introduced with Flash Player 7. That was the first time we turned it on, and we’ll be turning on auto-update notifications for Flash Player 9 to let people know there’s a new player available for downloading.

Flash Player adoption rates

Figure 1. Flash Player adoption rates

The primary driver of Flash Player adoption is still great content. Every day we see more new Flash 8 content and sites driving player upgrades. So we expect demand to continue at least at its current rate of approximately five million downloads per day as developers publish more content for versions 8 and 9.

As you begin to update or create new content and update websites, you can continue to rely on the default browser install experience for ActiveX in Microsoft Internet Explorer, and the Firefox plug-in finder service which we started supporting with the Flash Player 8 release. Alternatively, you can design a seamless, in-context upgrade experience that fits with your site content using the Express Install feature introduced in Flash Player 8. To find out more about player detection, installation, and Express Install, see the Flash Player Detection Kit. You can also check out SWFObject, another solution for detection and Express Install developed by a member of the community.

Another program that is often overlooked is the free distribution license we offer for intranets or for bundling the installer with your software products or services. This is particularly important for IT administrators who want to manage the software update and installation process on their networks. Adobe provides MSI, MSM, and EXE installers for Windows, and DMG installers for Mac OS.

We also recently launched an Adobe Flash Player catalog for the new Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS) 2003 R2 Inventory Tool for Custom Updates. (That’s a mouthful!) This is a new feature of the SMS server that allows IT administrators to subscribe to product catalogs from third-party software providers. When a new release or update is available, the IT administrator will be notified and can then download the installer packages for distribution on the network through SMS. Think of it as a type of auto-update notification service for enterprises. To find out more about how you can license Flash Player installers for redistribution, visit the Adobe Player Licensing site.