An ActiveX® Flash® player is actually two pieces of software. The Flash® player is a stand-alone installation that works with an Internet browser and the ActiveX® control which governs its communication within the Microsoft® system. Together, the two pieces of software work to display multimedia. With a Flash® player, the user can view advertisements, play videos, and use interactive games and other programs through the browser. An ActiveX® Flash® player can be used in both computer and cellphone software.
A piece of computer software used in a variety of applications, ActiveX® is often called an ActiveX® control. ActiveX® acts as a building block that adapts computer programs to run from the Internet, through a browser. The components of ActiveX® controls can be used with a variety of interfaces, or information protocols but are programmed to always work with an unknown interface. This way, the ActiveX® control focuses on a function instead of an interface. It is not, technically, a programming language, but a collection of rules to govern communication between applications.
Microsoft first introduced ActiveX® controls in 1996, as part of their component object model and object linking and embedding functions. The ActiveX® controls are similar to Java® applets, although the applets can function on multiple operating systems. ActiveX® controls are more typically used with Microsoft® systems.
Since ActiveX® controls are independent components, applications can share their programmed functions without creating additional code or software. For instance, with an ActiveX® Flash® player, each web site doesn't have to have its own media player. It can use an ActiveX® control to communicate with the media player installed on the computer and use its function to play the media. Flash® players replay streaming Flash® files that have video and sound.
Most animation on web sites uses some type of ActiveX® or Java® Flash® player. To add an animated graphic to a web site, it is first created in Flash®, then exported as a specific type of file in hypertext mark-up language (HTML). Then, the code for the ActiveX® control is added.
Web sites using an ActiveX® Flash® player typically operate automatically. Usually, the computer user does not realize that any additional functions are taking place, since the software is embedded in the web site. It is possible to change the ActiveX® settings on the web browser to ask permission before launching or installing new ActiveX® controls. Sometimes malicious software can infiltrate computer systems disguised as ActiveX® controls, so some computer users prefer to verify all ActiveX® controls before they are installed.