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Macromedia Flash celebrates 10 years

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Macromedia Flash celebrates a milestone birthday this year: The technology, which started out as FutureSplash Animator, was introduced in 1995.

Today, more than 98% of Web browsers support its capabilities, which expand with every new version of the software. For example, last summer, Macromedia released the newest versions of its developer software and player, incorporating new features that speak directly to the b-to-b market.

One of the most interesting changes is the ability to add third-party extensions within the Flash architecture. This is significant for the b-to-b audience because it lets developers add charts, graphs, bitmaps and more 3-D effects to ads. In addition, Macromedia added native support for PDF and Adobe Illustrator files, enabling users to create presentations within a Flash application.

Video compatibility is also improved. Using Macromedia Flash MX Professional 2004, developers can export video from most popular video editing tools, such as Avid Xpress/Media Composer and Apple Final Cut Pro. Ads and Web site components play more cleanly since video playback quality was enhanced by almost 200%, according to the company.

One of the most recent developments is the newest version of Macromedia's presentation server, Flex, which lets developers create applications based on the Flash technology, said Jeff Whatcott, Macromedia's VP of product management. "Flex is about helping people deliver complex processes online that are hard to do with Flash or html," he said.

Applications can be as involved as a product selector tool that lets advertisers give more detailed information about a series of products or services, complete with pricing, description and images. There's also a dashboard application that can be used to display graphs and charts. Since the application supports Oracle Corp.'s Application Server 10 g, IBM AIX and Fujitsu Interstage 6, developers can also deploy their own applications to the browser.

"Flex and Flash turns advertising into more than just ads," Whatcott said. "It helps qualify sales leads more effectively."

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