There is an interestingly named tool called Swiffy that is designed to allow developers to easily convert Flash (.swf) files to HTML5. A lot of you are probably thinking “So what? What exactly does this mean for us, and why should we really care all that much in the first place?” A good question, for sure. Why should you care?
The answer is simple. There are, sadly, a lot of devices out there that are simply incompatible with the Flash format. For example…the iPhone. For mobile devices without Flash support, running Flash-like animations was generally impossible without a third party extension for your device. As a result, many devices simply went without. Swiffy’s going to change that, naturally. It’ll allow you to use Flash content on devices that don’t have a Flash player, and its webkit ensures that it’ll function in browsers like Chrome and Safari. Wait, it runs in Chrome? Why?
The Story Of Swiffy
The idea for the program came from an engineering intern- a new hire who joined the mobile ad team last summer and has since become a full-time member of the team. Pieter Senster noticed that there wasn’t really any cohesive solution to the issues which arose when one attempted to run flash content. He wanted to change this, particularly where it pertained to mobile ads. Thus, the idea behind Swiffy was born. No word on who came up with the name- it sounds like an imitation of the Swiffer brand of cleaning products.
Anyway, The tool’s evidently incredibly simple to use, as well- all you need to to is upload a .swf file, and Swiffy will return it in HTML5 format. Since it just debuted in the labs, it’s naturally still in its early stages- so it can’t convert all flash content. Not yet, anyway.
I’m sure that once the tool is complete and out of the labs, it’ll be able to convert pretty much any .swf file from its native format into HTML5- allowing anyone, anywhere to view flash. It’s pretty clear that a technology like this is mostly for mobile users, isn’t it? People who run devices without a native flash player. Of course, mobile devices don’t really concern us, do they? What we really want to know is what this means for Google. More specifically, we want to know what this means for Chrome.
Swiffy and Chrome
Given that Chrome already has a shockwave plugin, it seems kind of strange that Google would be looking into making Swiffy functional in Chrome, doesn’t it? I’m not really sure what their motivation is, here- after all, they’re supposedly partnered with Adobe to integrate Flash support into the Chrome browser. Why would they bother developing a program like this? One word for you folks: ads. See, a lot of Google’s ads are in .swf format. And, since a lot of devices don’t support flash, that means a lot of users don’t see Google’s ads. You’re following me here, right?
Or maybe you’re still wondering when the hell I’m going to address what this means for Chrome.
Right. Well, I’m sure at least a few of you have noticed that the shockwave plugin has been behaving…just a touch odd lately. Perhaps it’s just me, but I noticed some time back that it was crashing a hell of a lot more than usual- and a hell of a lot more than it should. Pretty sure I’ve remedied that problem for the time being, but there’s always a chance it might come back in full force. A tool like Swiffy means that those of us fed up with shockwave flash can do away with the plugin if it doesn’t eventually start playing nice with the browser again.
There is another route Google could potentially go with Swiffy, as well. It could be that, while Google’s still looking to integrate flash, they also want to give their users the option to make the browser fully HTML5. I’m not sure what they- or Adobe, for that matter- would gain from this, but there it is. It’s either that, or they want to release a version of Chrome without shockwave flash support- unlikely as that seems.
It’s all speculation, one way or the other. We’ll just have to see what Google does with Swiffy once it’s finished.