What Is an SWF File?


Quick Answer

The SWF, or Small Web Format, file is a shockwave flash file format. SWF files are used to view multimedia, vector graphics and ActionScript files in Web browsers using Adobe Flash Player.

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Full Answer

SWF files are used for displaying vector graphics, text, video and sound through Web browsers using Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Air software. As of 2014, the flash player is used by 98 percent of desktops and laptops connected to the Internet and is also used on more than 800 million Internet-enabled mobile devices. The SWF file is the dominant format for displaying vector graphics in Web browsers and is commonly used in Web browser games using ActionScript. The SWF file is an efficient binary delivery format and is capable of containing animations and applets with a wide range of functions.

The SWF file format was originally defined by FutureWave Software to create small files for displaying animations that can work on any system with slow Internet connections. FutureSplash Animator was released by FutureWave in May 1996. Macromedia acquired FutureWave and FutureSplash Animator in December 1996 and became known as Macromedia Flash 1.0. Macromedia is owned by Adobe as of 2014.

SWF was originally an abbreviation for Shockwave Flash but was changed to Small Web Format. This was changed to eliminate the confusion with a different technology known as Shockwave, which SWF was derived from.

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