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Formerly the Macromedia Shockwave Player, this software is a plugin for viewing multimedia, interactive content, and web pages that have been created on the Shockwave platform. It is often confused with Flash Player, which is a different plugin. Content designed for Flash cannot be played in Shockwave, and vice versa.
Shockwave is generally safe to use. However, due to the nature of this kind of plugin, new vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered and exploited by hackers. For this reason, it is crucial that you keep Shockwave up to date, so that any new security fixes are applied to your system.
Shockwave Player is not essential to a smooth Internet browsing experience today. Though it once boasted a 99% penetration of the Western market in 2011, many sites have moved over to Flash or HTML5. You may occasionally come across multimedia content that requires Shockwave Player, but such instances are becoming increasingly rare.
Despite many similarities of purpose, not to mention being made by the same company, Flash Player and Shockwave are not the same thing. Furthermore, content made in one will not play in the other. Shockwave accepts content made in Adobe Director, whereas Flash Player accepts content made in Flash Professional.
Shockwave is licensed as freeware and, as such, does not cost to download or use. As freeware, the Shockwave Player remains the intellectual property of Adobe, and the software needed to create content for Shockwave is not free. It is also possible to create content in Shockwave which requires payment.
Shockwave Player can be downloaded by heading to the http://get.adobe.com/shockwave/ url. Once there, the site will attempt to automatically determine your system specifications. If it gets it wrong, you can follow a further link to choose the version of Shockwave Player you need. From there, simply click download and wait.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to enable Shockwave Player in Google Chrome. Google have removed support for NPAPI, a framework on which the Shockwave Player is built. As a result, Shockwave cannot operate in Chrome, and has not been able to since Chrome 45. It is still supported in other browsers.
The simplest way to test if Adobe Shockwave Player is working on your system is to navigate to a site which you know has Shockwave content. If the content loads properly, then Shockwave Player is working. The welcome page of Adobe's Shockwave website contains test content for this very purpose.
Firstly, download the correct version of Shockwave Player for your system. The Shockwave site should automatically detect the version you need, but you can also choose yourself. Once downloaded, simply run the downloaded file and follow the installation instructions. Please note, this is a browser plugin, not a standalone application.
The easiest test of whether Shockwave Player is installed is to navigate to a site that has Shockwave content and see if it loads. You can find Shockwave test content on the application's home page. Otherwise, simply look through your installed programs list to see if Shockwave Player is installed.