Mozilla Working on Running Flash via JavaScript

Mozilla logoJavaScript has been around for a long time but it's seeing a huge surge in popularity. All modern browsers now run JavaScript orders of magnitude faster than they did a few years back, enabling much more complex applications to be built with the language.

And since it's become so prevalent and so many people are familiar with it, it's being used for far more than it was initially intended for.

Browser extensions are now largely written in JavaScript. There are plenty of platforms that convert JavaScript code into native mobile apps.

We're also seeing a trend of JavaScript apps replacing anything that can be replaced, the best example being PDF.js which is set to become the built-in PDF reader in Firefox.

It's entirely written in JavaScript and it can do a lot of what dedicated native apps and plugins can.

Mozilla though is taking on the next challenge. A team is working on creating a SWF player in JavaScript, meaning something that can run Flash content without the Flash plugin, just with the capabilities all browsers pack already.

A simple Flash racing game running via Shumway in Firefox

A simple Flash racing game running via Shumway in Firefox

Shumway is a relatively new project and it's still in the early stages. It's a Flash virtual machine and runtime. It uses HTML5 Canvas for the stuff that's on the screen and JavaScript underneath. It can run SWF files such as animations, even games.

"Shumway is an HTML5 technology experiment that explores building a faithful and efficient renderer for the SWF file format without native code assistance," Mozilla describes the project.

"Shumway is community-driven and supported by Mozilla. Our goal is to create a general-purpose, web standards-based platform for parsing and rendering SWFs. Integration with Firefox is a possibility if the experiment proves successful," it adds.

Performance is pretty solid, considering the early stage, though it's still noticeably slower than using the Flash plugin even with the simple demos provided by the project.

It's an interesting project that could prove very useful, if the team can pull it off. Replacing the Flash player, which has always caused problems, with a native web alternative would be a major win for Firefox. But getting Shumway to the point where it can replace the Flash plugin is probably going to take a lot of time and resources.

In the end, it's unclear if this is even needed. There are several projects that work on converting Flash files into HTML5, i.e. something able to run natively without any performance penalty. Both Google and Adobe are working on it. And, of course, more and more developers choose HTML5 rather than Flash in the first place.

Source: Softpedia

Tags: browsers, Flash, HTML5, Mozilla

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