Google’s Swiffy Helps Convert 10 Year Old Flash Content to HTML5

Google recently made available Swiffy, a tool for converting Flash content to run in a browser without the Flash Player plug-in. The goal is to make Flash content available on modern browsers without a plug-in. Adobe has a very similar tool called Wallaby.

Does that sound good? Well, in theory yes, but pretty much all the chatter I’ve heard so far about this tool omits some critical details:

  • Swiffy does not support ActionScript 3, even though it’s been out since 2006 and is superior to AS2 in almost every way. It even only partly supports ActionScript 2.
  • Google recommends that Flash content is exported as Flash 5 (we are currently at 10.3). That version is well over 10 years old, has only basic scripting capabilities, no components, nor any of the 10+ years worth of other enhancements that have been made to the platform. Even then, they don’t support the whole Flash 5 spec.
  • Swiffy currently requires WebKit based browsers, such as Safari (mobile and desktop) or Chrome. Firefox and IE aren’t supported.

The only thing that this tool is suitable for is animations, which means that the only place it will likely be used is for ads. For even the simplest of Flash-based applications, it’s not remotely useful. Google does make it clear that this is for animations in their FAQ, but that detail is getting missed. Converting anything other than an animation would not terribly feasible, there is a significant capability that Flash has that HTML5 does not have, and there is the potential for significant complexity in applications created using the platform. It would likely not be feasible to implement a conversion tool that adapts an actual Flash application to HTML5.

There is no panacea when it comes to Web applications. There are things that are more suitable for Flash and Flex, and other things that are more suitable for HTML5. Sometimes you need both to target different audiences. An automated conversion tool isn’t going to apply the needed thought to adapt functionality for the audience.

4 thoughts on “Google’s Swiffy Helps Convert 10 Year Old Flash Content to HTML5

  1. Nice post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts which are more than valid, I absolutely agree. Did you do any tests, even if it only works for Flash5 files?

  2. Thanks! Yes, I tested a few Flash documents out. One was a simple animation based on Flash 8, which worked, although it produced a number of conversion errors for features that weren’t supported. Another had script in AS3, which didn’t convert at all. A third example was a small component which used AS2, which converted but was blank. A fourth component was AS2-based, but since it loaded external media, it didn’t convert either. So while I could give it files that targeted a version of Flash Player later than 5, it would either outright reject those using AS3, or ignore the majority of AS2 script for those using AS2. I didn’t test anything using AS1, since that’s not a terribly useful test.

  3. Thanks for making that clear! If you want to use AS3, provide broad browser support, want sound, like Open Source, and if you own the source code of the Flash application to convert, try Jangaroo! Have a look at all the applications we have already successfully converted to HTML5: http://www.jangaroo.net/applications/
    Rather than doing a 1:1 “binary” conversion, the goal is to use a common source base for Flash and HTML5 solutions or to simply build your HTML5 applications in AS3, which is better suited for large-scale projects than JavaScript.

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