What is Flash?
According to Adobe, Flash is
the industry standard for interactive authoring and delivery of immersive experiences that present consistently across personal computers, mobile devices, and screens of virtually any size and resolution.
According to Wikipedia:
Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash) is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to Web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements and games. More recently, it has been positioned as a tool for “Rich Internet Applications” (“RIAs”).
Flash manipulates vector and raster graphics to provide animation of text, drawings, and still images. It supports bidirectional streaming of audio and video, and it can capture user input via mouse, keyboard, microphone, and camera. Flash contains an Object-oriented language called ActionScript.
Flash content may be displayed on various computer systems and devices, using Adobe Flash Player, which is available free of charge for common Web browsers, some mobile phones and a few other electronic devices (using Flash Lite).
Origins of Flash
Flash was released in 1996 by Macromedia, which was later acquired by Adobe. It grew to be one of the main technologies on the web. More can be read about the origins of Flash in these links:
Adobe’s Flash Anniversary page
Wired – Flash turns 10
Flash Magazine article
Jon Gay’s History of Flash page
Flash at a Crossroads
Flash has evolved into a complex platform, involving multiple development applications and technologies:
The Adobe® Flash® Platform is an integrated set of application programming technologies surrounded by an established ecosystem of support programs, business partners, and enthusiastic user communities. Together, they provide everything you need to create and deliver compelling applications, content, and video to the widest possible audience across screens and devices.
Text and image from: http://www.adobe.com/flashplatform/
However, Flash is at a crossroads. On the one hand, it faces increased competition from technologies such as HTML5, and criticism from powerful companies such as Apple. On the other hand, it has strong allied such as Google (who supports Flash natively in its Chrome browser and Android platform), and Adobe claims to be supportive of open technologies such as HTML5. The newest version of the Flash player, 10.1, supports modern interactivity, such as multi-touch.