I know. You thought Flash was long gone. You mourned the relationship and moved on. Having made peace with the past and exploring a bright future, you were ready to start a new life with HTML5. Now, thanks to Mozilla, your ex has come calling, bringing back all those old memories. But enough with the metaphors. The organization behind Firefox announced Shumway, an open SWF runtime project, today. With this, the company hopes to bring compatibility for Flash content back to the web, particularly on mobile. A lofty goal, given that Adobe, creator of the Flash format, isn't keen on that last part.
The basic idea goes like this: there is still a good amount of Flash-based content on the web. However, modern browsers either use proprietary plugins (as on the desktop) or are completely unable to display it at all (iOS, modern Android versions). If we want to keep the web open, then there ought to be a plugin that can view this content. The web should not be segmented!
It's a neat idea in theory. If you like the plan and have some technical expertise to share, then Mozilla is looking for people to help out in the following five areas:
1. Core. This module includes the main file format parser, the rasterizer, and event system.
4. Browser Integration handles the glue between the web browser and the Shumway runtime.
5. Testing/Demos. Add good demo and test files/links to Shumway.
Therein lies the rub. While the project is a neat idea, and there are certainly at least some occasions where mobile users might have need for something like this, it looks like the team behind this runtime is understaffed from the start. This doesn't feel like a tour de force in the making so much as that little kid from Iron Man 2 trying to take out a drone. Only I think Tony Stark might be a little too busy to save Flash.
The bigger question is whether this is really necessary. Adobe certainly doesn't want Flash to die entirely, as evidenced by their continued desktop investment, but the fact is that nearly the entire internet is trying to get away from relying on a plugin made by a single company. The mobile revolution amply demonstrated that Adobe is slower to adapt than the internet as a whole, and it's growing increasingly necessary that the standards we rely on not be based on an out-of-date, battery-consuming formats.
Mozilla's goal of ensuring that Flash content doesn't become entirely inaccessible is a noble one, but it's unlikely to subvert or even postpone the medium's demise.