Adobe's free Flash Player plug-in enables cool stuff in your Web browser and portable devices. It plays Shockwave Flash (SWF) files from YouTube and similar sites, streaming 3D video and animation, online games, and embedded Web applications. It also allows some Web sites to store and run data on your PC to collect usage statistics, much like cookies do. The latest version, Adobe Flash Player 11, automatically disables local storage of data in Web browsers that support private browsing. If your browser doesn't allow this option, you can typically access Flash Player's settings through the browser's plug-in page. Adobe Flash Player's plug-in is compatible with all major browsers and derivatives, including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari.
Adobe Flash Player's plug-in comes in several different versions, depending on your browser and operating system, but in most cases it also automatically identifies each and selects the appropriate download. Google Chrome users don't have to do anything to use the latest version of Flash Player; it's built in to Chrome and updates itself automatically. We downloaded and installed the latest Flash Player plug-in for Firefox and IE, and also tried Flash Player's performance in Chrome's incognito mode. The installation procedure is a bit different for each, as is access to plug-ins, but generally speaking it's not only easy but practically foolproof. We viewed the same YouTube video in each browser to compare the plug-in's behavior in different browsers, including secure and private modes. We saw no differences, though, and each browser performed well. TechNotes at Adobe's Flash Player Web site explain the differences between versions and offer information for developers and advanced users.
Most users need Adobe's Flash Player to use the Internet in the ways they expect to: videos should play smoothly, audio should keep up with video, and things shouldn't hang or crash. Privacy and security factors are comparable to other common browser features like cookies and won't be much of an issue for users who take commonsense precautions while browsing the Web. The bottom line is, without Adobe Flash Player, the Web just isn't the same.