Once the darling of the young Web, Flash eventually became a liability because of its gaping security holes and heavy resource usage. But for all the flack it has received, it’s hard to deny the amount of legitimate and noteworthy content produced using flash, particularly 2D animations and games. To make sure those are never lost forever, one developer has taken upon the rather grueling task of creating Ruffles, the open source WebAssembly Flash emulator.
Ruffles isn’t a compatibility layer or a stand-in replacement for Flash. It is straight out an emulator that should transparently allow videos and, eventually games, to run in web browsers or even on the desktop even without the soon to be dead Flash Player. More than just a simple emulator, however, Ruffles’ foundations aim to make it a more long-lasting and even more secure way to preserve Flash content for posterity.
Written in the Rust programming language (developed and pushed by Mozilla), Ruffles compiles Flash content to WebAssembly in order to provide full-speed playback and performance as if it were really running in the Flash Player. WebAssembly also runs sandboxed, addressing concerns about security. Finally, as an open source project, any possible bugs can be easily detected and may actually be in the browser instead of Ruffles itself.
The project is still a work in progress but with Newgrounds, the world’s remaining bastion of Flash content, supporting it, development could speed up after the initial announcement. There is work on a browser extension that will detect Flash embed code and swap it out with Ruffles behind the scenes. The ultimate goal is on supporting playback of videos and animations and, later on, complex interactive content, without such plugins.
Flash may have earned a bad rap in more recent times but, before HTML5 and Web 2.0 came about, it empowered all kinds of people to create rich multimedia and interactive content that could be experienced on Web browsers. Rather than throw all of those out, Ruffles can hopefully help preserve a small piece of gaming history and the entertaining videos that proliferated on the Internet in the age before cats.