Shockwave is the term for the files that Director creates for browser-based playback. Director was first able to create Shockwave content way back in 1996, when the AfterBurner Xtra was released. Director was at version 5 and after installing the Xtra you could "shock" your movies, enabling them to be played back by the browser plug-in. Essentially, shocking your movies entailed compressing the media and removing any Lingo that might be a security threat.
Shockwave movies are actually downloaded, and play locally in your browser, so any Lingo that can access the hard drive, or do any potentially malicious action isn't permitted. This is known in as "sandboxing," a technique for creating confined execution environments.
Shockwave has become a bit of a confusing term to people in recent times with the popularity of Flash. Because Flash produces .swf files for the Web, people have come to think "swf" means Shockwave Flash, when in fact it means Small Web File. Adding to the confusion is Shockwave.com, a popular gaming site, and the redirect to it that people get when they install the Shockwave plug-in. Because many of the games on the site are created in Flash and other technologies, many people have no idea it's actually Director that creates Shockwave content. Well, we're here to change that!