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Is the market 1.8% empty,
or is it 98.2% Full?

Utilising vector graphics, cutting edge audio/video, and unique Macromedia file formats (.swf, .fla), Flash is capable of delivering image and sound-rich content even over a 56K connection. Animation, dynamic buttons, form processing, JavaScripts, and more can be incorporated, giving the user a very active, engaging role while viewing a site. You can even develop complete games in Flash.

User Stats

As of December 2004, Macromedia claims that 538 million users have flash. If you need to deliver media-rich content, consider this break down:

Installed Multimedia Apps On Internet-Enabled PCs:

(1) Macromedia Flash Player: 98.2%
(2) Java: 87.1%
(3) Adobe Acrobat Reader: 78.2%,
(4) Apple QuickTime Player: 59.6%
(5) RealOne Player: 58.5%
(6) Macromedia Shockwave Player: 52.7%,
(7) Microsoft Windows Media Player: 42.0%
(8) ViewPoint Media Player: 49.6%
(9) SVG: 11.9%

(Source: Macromedia)

Deciding to Use It

The only thing to consider regarding whether or not to use Flash is your target audience. Even with such a successful product, you'll be potentially excluding a lot of viewers, as broadband only recently (2004) passed the 50% mark in market saturation, and a fair number of very active web users have a disdain for all-Flash web sites. The options? If you know your target audience is mostly internet-savvy power-users who like Flash, go ahead and build with it. If you have a broader audience, you can also build two versions of your content, and use "sniffer" pages to provide both formats.

We've provided a couple of links to some interesting Flash sites if you're not familiar with what it does. Once you've seen it in action, it's hard to think of the web in the same way.

Recommended Reading:
Like many of the books in the "Quick Start" Series, this one makes an intimidating piece of software a lot more approachable:
Macromedia Flash Quickstart Guide
Macromedia Flash MX 2004 : Visual QuickStart Guide

Recommended Software:

Well, this kind of goes without saying:

Macromedia Flash MX 2004
This alternative to Flash has a more "wizard-based" interface and is considerably less expensive at $99.95:

SWiSHmax: Flash Made Easy

Recommended Links:

Toon Boom Studio
is a 2D animation tool that outputs files in Flash and other formats

An excellent central resource with tutorials, downloads, and reference tools

The Flash product page at Macromedia

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