ActionScript was initially designed for controlling simple 2D vector animations made in Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash). Initially focused on animation, early versions of Flash content offered few interactivity features and thus had very limited scripting capability. Later versions added functionality allowing for the creation of Web-based games and rich Internet applications with streaming media (such as video and audio). Today, ActionScript is suitable for use in some database applications, and in basic robotics, as with the Make Controller Kit.
Flash MX 2004 introduced ActionScript 2.0, a scripting programming language more suited to the development of Flash applications. It is often possible to save time by scripting something rather than animating it, which usually also enables a higher level of flexibility when editing.
Since the arrival of the Flash Player 9 alpha (in 2006) a newer version of ActionScript has been released, ActionScript 3.0. ActionScript 3.0 is an object-oriented programming language allowing far more control and code reusability when building complex Flash applications. This version of the language is intended to be compiled and run on a version of the ActionScript Virtual Machine that has been itself completely re-written from the ground up (dubbed AVM2). Because of this, code written in ActionScript 3.0 is generally targeted for Flash Player 9 and higher and will not work in previous versions. At the same time, ActionScript 3.0 executes up to 10 times faster than legacy ActionScript code.
Flash libraries can be used with the XML capabilities of the browser to render rich content in the browser. This technology is known as Asynchronous Flash and XML, much like AJAX. Adobe offers its Flex product line to meet the demand for Rich Internet Applications built on the Flash runtime, with behaviors and programming done in ActionScript. ActionScript 3.0 forms the foundation of the Flex 2 API.