Navigator with a Flash

Macromedia's Flash plug-in, already one of the most popular with developers and users, got a big boost this week with announcement that it will be integrated into the next release of the Navigator browser, due out later this year. Flash is the most widely used vector animation and graphics tool, with over more than 40 million plug-in downloads recorded in the past year.

Depending on which browser you use, viewing visually rich Web sites often means interrupting your surfing session to download a plug-in. An announcement Macromedia and Netscape Communications made Tuesday, however, promises to streamline your browsing by eliminating the need to download one of the Web's most popular plug-ins.

The two companies have joined forces to integrate Macromedia's Flash plug-in in the next release of the Navigator browser, due out later this year. According to Macromedia vice president and general manager David Mendels, the integration will make browsing graphic-heavy sites, like Disney's Daily Blast and Comedy Central's South Park section, an experience closer to watching TV than to using a PC.

"I think the biggest barrier to people's using Flash has been that the user has to download it," Mendels said. Now viewing sites that rely on the plug-in will be a more seamless experience, he said. Despite its download status, Flash is the most widely used vector animation and graphics tool, with over more than 40 million plug-in downloads recorded in the past year.

The Flash plug-in is 100Kb in size, according to Mendels, and is not expected to increase the download time of the Navigator browser. Although Navigator users will not be able to opt out of downloading Flash when they download the browser, they will be able to uninstall the Flash component once Navigator is installed.

Macromedia recently shipped Flash 3, a $300 tool for developing vector-based animations that retain their graphic quality when resized and can download quickly. Files created with Flash can also stream to the browser. That means you can begin viewing graphics as soon as they start downloading, rather than waiting for the entire file to download.

While Microsoft has supported Flash for quite some time through its ActiveX controls, Netscape has been slower to adopt the technology.

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