Macromedia Shockwave is Macromedia's first and most successful multimedia player prior to the advent of Macromedia Flash. In an attempt to raise its brand profile all Macromedia players prepended Shockwave to their names in the late 1990s. Although this campaign was very successful and helped establish Shockwave Flash as a dominant multimedia plugin, Shockwave and Flash became more difficult to maintain as two separate products. As of 2005, Macromedia marketed three distinct browser player plugins under the brand names Macromedia Authorware, Macromedia Shockwave and Macromedia Flash.
Although Macromedia Shockwave was designed for making a wide variety of online movies and animations, its actual use has become concentrated in the area of game development. Shockwave's 3D engine is still unchallenged in this market having replaced Java as the most popular engine for online games. Flash files can be played on a Shockwave player, but not vice versa. Other features not replicated by Flash include a much faster rendering engine, including hardware-accelerated 3D, direct pixel access on bitmap images, blend modes for layered display of graphic assets and support for various network protocols, including Internet Relay Chat. Furthermore Shockwave's functionality can be extended with so-called "Xtras". Unlike Flash, the Shockwave browser plugin is not available for Linux (or Solaris) despite very vocal lobbying efforts by the Linux community.
According to Macromedia.com, Macromedia Shockwave Player is available on 55.4% of Internet-enabled PCs (Shockwave Player Census). Macromedia Shockwave Player uses .DCR files created using the authoring tool Macromedia Director. Its MIME type is application/x-director. Macromedia Flash Player is available on 97.7% of Internet-enabled PCs (Flash Player Census). It uses .SWF files created using Macromedia Flash, FreeHand, Generator, and a number of third-party tools such as OpenOffice.org and Swish. Its MIME type is application/x-shockwave-flash.