Flash technology uses a Macromedia ® plug-in known as Shockwave, now installed in over 98% of browsers, and offers a good deal more than just cool vector-based animations and banner ads.
With a special scripting language, ActionScript, Flash movies let users interact with graphics and intuitive menus, shop online, query databases, fill in forms, answer quizzes, take exams, play games and more. Whole sites can be built with Flash technology and linked to XML datasheets accessible to search engine spiders.
Most Web graphics are bitmaps and appear pixelated when enlarged. If the browser, graphics driver or operating system cannot support a rich colour palette, many hues are approximated through dithering, thus reducing sharpness and detail. The next generation of browsers will support the new scalable vector-based format, SVG, as well as PNG replacing 24-bit JPEGs, optimised for photographs, and 8-bit GIFs better suited for pictures with a limited number of colours.
No e-commerce site would be complete without photographs of all products, ideally thumbnails enlarged by single mouse click. By adding image URLs (file names and locations) to a sales database, hundreds of meaningful pictures can soon be linked to a dynamically created Web pages.