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For years, playing video on the Web has generally required using one of the three applications: Apple's QuickTime, Microsoft's Windows Media Player, or Real Networks' RealPlayer. Now, though, the Big Three players face a challenger that initially became well-known for uses that had nothing to do with video: Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash. Even before Adobe's $3.4 billion buyout of Macromedia, Flash - once just a Web site animation tool $was expanding into online video. Now that Flash has access to Adobe's clout and resources, as well as new technology, proponents hope this process will accelerate. However, Flash is considerably smaller than its competitors and offers faster download speeds. It is also tightly integrated with the well-regarded Flash multimedia-development environment. Nonetheless, Flash's strengths are already making the technology a prominent part of the online-video landscape, a process that could continue if Adobe keeps improving it. The new Flash 8 environment, released in August 2005, includes Flash Player 8 and Flash Professional 8, a set of content-creation tools. According to analysts, Flash is likely to become increasingly successful in the on-demand streaming segment of the video-player market but probably won't expand into other areas unless major features are added.