Public tests new version of Flash player

Three months after promising big changes in its signature Web animation software, Macromedia releases a public test version.

Three months after promising big changes in its signature Web animation software, Macromedia has released a public test version of the Flash player.

Macromedia published on Tuesday morning the first public test, or "beta," version of the Flash 8 player, code-named "Maelstrom," on its Web site.

"This public beta is a prerelease version of the next major release of Flash Player," read the download site. "It is being made available for developers and consumers to test their content to ensure existing content plays back correctly and that there are no compatibility issues....Please help us ensure that this release will be of the highest quality by installing and using these players. Please let us know as soon as possible if you encounter any issues."

In an interview, one Macromedia executive stressed the importance of ensuring backward-compatibility between the player-in-testing and existing Flash content.

"What we want is for thousands of people to download this and surf the Web and see if anything's broken," said David Mendels, Macromedia's executive vice president and general manager. "The key value of the Flash player is that you go to content on the Web and it works. And we don't want to break anything."

Flash has captured increasing attention as Macromedia has tried to position it as a Web-based application platform, rather than a mere animation tool. Adobe said in April that it intended to buy Macromedia; that deal has encountered new questions from the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division.

Macromedia made the test available for use with computers running Microsoft's Windows 98 operating system or later, and Macintosh OS X 10.1 and later. General release Flash players typically support a wider array of operating systems.

Mendels said Macromedia is testing its Flash content authoring tool, code-named 8Ball, privately and will not conduct a public beta test. Both the player and authoring tool are slated for a "late summer" release.

Macromedia previewed Flash 8's features in April at the Flashforward conference in San Francisco.

Mendels said the company's newly announced FlashCast system, which lets telephone companies distribute Flash content to cell phones using the stripped-down FlashLite software, is in testing with two major carriers, which he did not name.

"We're very excited about FlashCast," Mendels said. "We're getting very strong reactions from the industry."

Featured Video

Why do so many of us still buy cars with off-road abilities?

Cities are full of cars like the Subaru XV that can drive off-road but will never see any challenging terrain. What drives us to buy cars with these abilities when we don't really need them most of the time?

by Drew Stearne