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This is strange as I already had another flash movie on there which had not done this. The new one did use some code I got from the internet to create a visual effect - could this have been the root of the problem?
The lab has since updated their flash player and the problem is now fixed. I'm just wondering if this is something I need to worry about? I don't want this to happen to other people visiting my site, how can I make sure it doesn't happen?
My first guess is just that, an infinite loop or memory intensive process could have brought this about. The help files have a lot to say about optimizing memory - a Flash with lots of blends and transparencies can eat up memory very quickly. Sloppy coding can do it as well. For example, if you were to create a slide show that creates objects on the fly, and doesn't completely destroy unused/invisible objects, the Flash will run slower and slower until it freezes the browser. Again . . . sadly . . . from experience.
But in your case, since you said updating the Flash fixed it, it's most likely something being used by a later version that's not supported in older versions - for example, ActionScript 3.0 played on a player that only supports ActionScript 2.0. Ordinarily it just won't "work," but it's entirely possible it was trying to and encountered some method that wasn't supported.
var FLASH_VER = getVersion().split(" ");
FLASH_VER = FLASH_VER.split(",");
if(FLASH_VER < 8)
_root.gotoAndStop(20); //Display update flashplayer link for example...