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WebAssembly Used to Extend Life of Flash Legacy Content

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Adobe will stop distributing and updating Flash Player after December 31, 2020. The large amount of Flash content accumulated over the years is however not entirely lost. Flashpoint, the web game preservation project, should allow players to access over 30,000 web games and 2,000 web animations. Ruffle, a Flash emulator, and CheerpX, an x86 virtualization technology, both leverage WebAssembly to play .swf files in the browser.

As previously announced in July 2017, Adobe reminded Flash users in a note that the Adobe Flash Player end-of-life (EOL) date was set to December 31, 2020. Adobe expended:

Adobe will stop distributing and updating Flash Player after December 31, 2020 (“EOL Date”). We made this announcement in collaboration with several of our technology partners – including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla – which issued complementary announcements with more technical detail on what the Flash Player EOL will mean for developers, enterprises, and consumers […].

Adobe Animate, Adobe Air, or Adobe Character Animator may replicate most of the functionality of Adobe Flash Professional and be used for new animated content. Adobe Animate additionally can export to multiple formats – including HTML5. Adobe Air enables developers and designers to create cross-platform games and apps targeting iOS, Android, Windows, and MacOS. Developers and designers may also directly write their animations with HTML5 and the Web Animation API, now supported in all modern browsers.

In 2020, very few websites still use Flash. There is however plenty of Flash content that accumulated over the years – in particular games and educational content. This content may not be played back with Flash Player next year. Adobe explicitly warned:

Adobe will be removing Flash Player download pages from its site and Flash-based content will be blocked from running in Adobe Flash Player after the EOL date.
Customers should not use Flash Player after the EOL date since it will not be supported by Adobe.
Adobe will not issue Flash Player updates or security patches after the EOL date. We recommend that all users uninstall Flash Player before the EOL date

The legacy Flash content may however be played thanks to alternate technologies. BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint is a free, open-source application for Windows and Linux that allows its users to play over 38,000 web games and 2,400 animations totaling 468 GB of content.

Flashpoint strives to be a web game preservation archive that can play content made in Adobe Flash, Adobe Shockwave, HTML5, Java, Unity Web Player, Microsoft Silverlight, ActiveX, and other formerly popular web plugins. The project is comprised of a web server, redirector, and launcher working together to get Flash content to work as if it were hosted on the web. It is thus not stricto sensu a Flash player.

On the other hand, Ruffle is an open-source Flash player emulator. that can be used as a replacement for Adobe Flash Player in the browser or on a desktop. Ruffle is written with Rust and leverages WebAssembly. Newgrounds, who owns a large portfolio of Flash content, sponsors Ruffle and announced it will use Ruffle to continue to serve its content after Flash’s EOL date.

CheerpX, from Learningtech, the company behind the Java-to-web compiler CheerpJ, strives to run Flash content in the browser by virtualizing the Flash player. CheerpX may also extend the life of legacy Flex/Spark (enterprise) UIs. CheerpX is an x86 to WebAssembly virtualization technology that claims to run any x86 application fully client side. The company presented the technology in a talk at the WasmSF meetup in San Francisco last year.

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