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Popular Plugins

appropriate application to view the content. When Netscape 2.0 was introduced, it featured a new
plugin architecture, essentially providing the capability to embed these helper applications directly
into Web pages.
Since that time, Web browsers have come a long way. All browsers today allow Java applets to be
embedded in pages, along with a whole host of other plugins. Of course, dynamic pages can be created
today using the DOM, so is there really any reason to use plugins? The answer is yes.
Plugins continue to push the envelope for Web page interaction, offering a whole host of advantages
over built-in browser technology. Although many browsers have built-in HTTP request capabilities for
JavaScript, the only way to have true bi-directional client-server communication using sockets is through
plugins. Likewise, the only way to embed and animate vector graphics is through the use of plugins. As
an added bonus, most plugins work across browsers without any problem.
The bottom line is that plugins are able to provide functionality that the browsers either can’t or won’t
provide natively. Because companies don’t have to wait for a browser to be updated in order to update a
plugin, plugins are an attractive option for many developers.
Popular Plugins
Many plugins are popular today on the World Wide Web. The most notable are the following:
Macromedia Flash Player
— Macromedia Flash provides vector graphic-based animation and
an ever-increasing amount of complex functionality that can be embedded in Web pages using
the Flash Player. Flash has arguably become the most popular use of a plugin. Some Web sites
are written entirely in Flash. The Flash Player is shipped with almost every Web browser and
works on Windows, MacOS, Linux, and most Unix systems.
Java Plugin
— Still one of the leaders in plugin technology, the Java plugin enables you to
embed Java applets in Web pages. It works on almost all platforms.
Apple Quicktime
— Enables the embedding of Apple Quicktime videos in Web pages.
Quicktime videos can be standard, start-to-finish videos or Quicktime VR (Virtual Reality)
movies that allow the user to pan around a 3D room. Quicktime is available for Windows
and MacOS.
Real Player
— Real Player was the early leader in delivering streaming audio and video over
the Internet. Today, it’s in a tight race with Quicktime and Windows Media Player (see follow-
ing) for control of streaming media. It does a good job — with support for almost every com-
puting platform.
Windows Media Player
— Not to be outdone, Microsoft offers its own embeddable movie player
featuring the Windows Media Player. Although it is capable of handling Quicktime movies and its
own format, the Windows Media Player is available only on Windows operating systems.
Adobe SVG Viewer
— Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is a new XML-based language for creat-
ing vector graphics. Although browsers still don’t support the language natively, Adobe has
taken up the battle and introduced the SVG Viewer, which can be used to embed SVG images in
Web pages. The SVG Viewer is currently available on most platforms, with support for Internet
Explorer and Netscape 4.x; Mozilla support is not yet available.
Chapter 18
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