While AOL users--currently numbered at 13 million by the company--have long been able to access and create Flash and Shockwave content, the inclusion of the players with AOL 4.0 means that users won't have to independently download Macromedia's software.
The deal is the latest in a string for Macromedia involving distribution of its Web animation players. Other distribution venues that offer Flash include Microsoft's Windows 98 operating system, which like AOL offers both Flash and Shockwave; Real Networks' streaming multimedia player, Netscape Communications' Navigator Web browser, and Microsoft's WebTV.
The Flash player plays animations built with the Flash tool, which is designed for creating animations commonly found on Web pages. The Shockwave player plays animations built with Macromedia's Director software. Shockwave animations have the potential to be more complex and lengthy than Flash animations.
On top of its distribution deals, the Macromedia Web site serves up more than 300,000 downloads a day of Flash and Shockwave players, according to director of product management Ben Dillon.
"Today's announcement is significant in that, for Shockwave and Flash, we have the No. 1 online service adopting and distributing them," Dillon said, noting that AOL's popularity with consumers and beginning Internet users was particularly attractive to Macromedia.
Macromedia's goal with the distribution deals?
"Ubiquity," Dillon said. "Already, the numbers get to seem ridiculous because there are more downloads of the players than there are Web users." Dillon attributed that phenomenon to product upgrades and multiple browsers per computer.