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Adobe Shockwave app logo

Adobe Shockwave icon

Adobe Shockwave Player (formerly Macromedia Shockwave Player and also known as Shockwave for Director), was a freeware plug-in for viewing multimedia and video games in web pages, content created on the Adobe Shockwave platform. Content is developed with Adobe Director and published on the Internet. Such content can be viewed in a web browser on any computer with the Shockwave Player plug-in installed. It was first developed by Macromedia, and released in 1995 and was later acquired by Adobe Systems in 2005.[1]

Shockwave Player ran DCR files published by the Adobe Director environment. Shockwave Player supported raster graphics, basic vector graphics, 3D graphics, digital audio, and an embedded scripting language called Lingo.[2][3] Hundreds of free online video games were developed using Shockwave, and published on websites such as Miniclip and[4]

As of July 2011, a survey found that Flash Player had 99% market penetration in desktop browsers in "mature markets" (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand), while Shockwave Player claimed only 41% in these markets.[5] By 2015, Flash Player has become a suitable alternative to Shockwave Player, with its 3D rendering capabilities and object-oriented programming language. However, Flash Player cannot display Shockwave content, and Shockwave Player cannot display Flash content.[6]


Macromedia Shockwave logo 1995

Logo for Shockwave content authored with Macromedia Director from 1995 to 1997.

The Shockwave player was originally developed for the Netscape browser by Macromedia Director team members Harry Chesley, John Newlin, Sarah Allen, and Ken Day, influenced by a previous plug-in that Macromedia had created for Microsoft's Blackbird. Version 1.0 of Shockwave was released independent of Director 4 and its development schedule has coincided with the release of Director since version 5.[citation needed] Its version has since been tied to Director's, thus there were no Shockwave 2–4 releases.

Shockwave 1
The Shockwave plug-in for Netscape Navigator 2.0 was first released in June 1995,[7] along with the stand-alone Afterburner utility to compress Director files for Shockwave playback. The first large-scale multimedia site to use Shockwave was Intel's 25th Anniversary of the Microprocessor.[8]
Macromedia Director 5 box

Macromedia Director 5

Shockwave 5
Afterburner is integrated into the Director 5.0 authoring tool as an Xtra.
Shockwave 6
Added support for Shockwave Audio (swa) which consisted of the emerging MP3 file format with some additional headers.
Shockwave 7
Added support for linked media including images and casts.
Added support for Shockwave Multiuser Server.
Shockwave 8.5
Added support for Intel's 3D technologies including rendering.
Shockwave 9
Shockwave 10
Last version to support Mac OS X 10.3 and lower, and Mac OS 9.
Shockwave 11
Added support for Intel-based Macs.
Shockwave 12
Shockwave 12.1
It is supported by 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. It has content made from previous versions as well as Director MX 2004. From version Shockwave is supported in both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.[9]

Shockwave 12.2 Last update for Mac OS X before discontinuation.

Shockwave 12.3

Platform support[]

Shockwave was available as a plug-in for the classic Mac OS, Mac OS X, and 32 bit Windows for most of its history. However, there was a notable break in support for the Macintosh between January 2006 (when Apple initiated their transition to Intel processors, starting with the Intel Core Duo) and March 2008 (when Adobe Systems released Shockwave 11, the first version to run natively on Intel Macs).

Unlike Flash Player, Shockwave Player is not available for Linux or Solaris despite intense lobbying efforts. However, the Shockwave Player can be installed on Linux with CrossOver (or by running a Windows version of a supported browser in Wine with varying degrees of success). It was also possible to use Shockwave Player in the native Linux version of Firefox by using the Pipelight plug-in (which is based on a modified version of Wine).


Some security experts advise users to uninstall Adobe Shockwave Player because "it bundles a component of Adobe Flash that is more than 15 months behind on security updates, and which can be used to backdoor virtually any computer running it", in the words of Brian Krebs. This opinion is based on research by Will Dormann, who goes on to say that Shockwave is architecturally flawed because it contains a separate version of the Flash runtime that is updated much less often than Flash itself.[10] Additionally Krebs writes that "Shockwave has several modules that don’t opt in to trivial exploit mitigation techniques built into Microsoft Windows, such as SafeSEH."[11][12]

Branding and name confusion[]

Macromedia Flash Shockwave Enabled logos 1997

Logos for Flash and Shockwave web content by Macromedia, before being acquired by Adobe Systems in 2005.

In an attempt to raise its brand profile, all Macromedia players prefixed Shockwave to their names in the late 1990s. Although this campaign was successful and helped establish Shockwave Flash as a multimedia plug-in,[citation needed] Shockwave and Flash became more difficult to maintain as separate products. In 2005, Macromedia marketed three distinct browser player plug-ins under the brand names Macromedia Authorware, Macromedia Shockwave, and Macromedia Flash.

Macromedia also released a web browser plug-in for viewing Macromedia FreeHand files online. It was branded Macromedia Shockwave for FreeHand and displayed specially compressed .fhc Freehand files.[13]

With the acquisition of Macromedia in December 2005, Adobe Systems began to rebrand all products, such as Adobe Director and Adobe Shockwave.[14]


On February 1, 2017, Adobe stopped selling Adobe Director, the authoring tool for Shockwave content. Support for Shockwave Player on Mac OS X ended on March 14, 2017.[15] In February 2019, Adobe announced that all remaining support for Shockwave on Microsoft Windows would be officially discontinued, effective April 9, 2019.[16]


  1. Elia, Eric (1996). Macromedia unveils Shockwave and Director 5. HyperMedia Communications. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
  2. Macromedia Shockwave for Director User's Guide, Volume 1, New Riders Pub., January 1, 1996
  3. Macromedia Shockwave for Director, Volume 1, Hayden Books, 1996
  5. Flash content reaches 99% of Internet viewers. Adobe. Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved on August 7, 2014.
  7. Directing a comeback: Macromedia by Om Malik, Forbes. 1997-10-28.
  8. Intel's 25th Anniversary of the Microprocessor. Archived from the original on January 3, 1997. Retrieved on November 17, 2017.
  9. LANDESK Patch News Bulletin: Adobe has Released Shockwave Player Version install) for Windows 24-APR-2014. Landesk. Retrieved on May 7, 2014.
  10. Shockwave shocker: Plugin includes un-patched version of Flash (May 23, 2014). Archived from the original on May 23, 2014.
  11. Why You Should Ditch Adobe Shockwave (May 21, 2014). Archived from the original on May 25, 2014.
  12. Adobe Shockwave bundles Flash that’s 15 months behind on security fixes (May 21, 2014). Archived from the original on May 22, 2014.
  13. "Creating Shockwave Web Pages", Que Corporation. ISBN: 0-7897-0903-1. Retrieved on March 30, 2008. 
  14. Macromedia Flash SWF File Format, Library of Congress. Accessed 2018-06-26.
  15. Adobe Is Killing Contribute, Director, and Shockwave by msmash, Slashdot. 2017-01-27.
  16. End of Life (EOL) for Adobe Shockwave.

External links[]

Adobe Director
1 · 2 · 3 (3.1) | 4 · 5 · 6 (6.5) · 7 · 8 (8.5) · MX · MX 2004 | 11 (11.5) · 12
Accelerator   |   Afterburner   |   Aftershock   |   Director Player   |   Multimedia Studio: 1 · 2 · 6 (6.5) · 7 · 8 (8.5)
Shockmachine   |   Shockwave Player
Discontinued in February 2017
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