FLV, or Flash® video, is a format used to play video and animation online. It originated with Macromedia® Flash® software, which was acquired by Adobe®. FLV files can be played in a web browser or in a standalone media player. FLV's main advantages are its popularity, its ability to create small but high-quality files, and its flexibility.
FLV is very popular. It is becoming the standard file format for video-sharing websites as well as for many news websites. The primary reason for this is that FLV can be viewed in any browser that uses the Adobe® Flash® Player or browser plugin—and nearly all modern browsers come with the plugin preinstalled. FLV files can be played in several other media players as well. The FLV format is cross-platform: It can be played on computers running Windows®, Macintosh®, or Linux®.
The FLV format produces much smaller files than most other video formats, and provides a high level of compression without much loss of quality. FLV files tend to load quickly, even on an older computer or a slow Internet connection. The audio and video streams are separate, so FLV files tend to have very good sound quality as well as video quality.
FLV format is a streaming format, but downloads progressively. The entire file does not have to be downloaded before it can begin to play, and the video can be started and stopped from any point. Buttons and a slider in the player's controls allow the viewer to play, stop, and go back or forward in the video.
Many other video formats can easily be converted to FLV format, even if they were not originally created in Flash®. Most popular video editing software packages can export to FLV, but FLV format is not just for video. It can also be used for banner ads, animation, and presentations.
FLV files can also be embedded in a Flash® SWF file. SWF originally stood for "Shockwave Flash," but now also stands for "small web format." The SWF file is "skinnable," meaning it can be customized so that the video player matches a website, unlike most players that have their own particular look. FLV files that are embedded in a SWF file can be changed without changing the SWF file, so a developer can use the same design for the player across a website or channel of websites, but change the video files. This gives developers more flexibility than many other video formats offer.