The End of Flash. Tools to Convert Flash to HTML5
2020 brings the end of Flash support across all platforms. For those looking to savor their legacy content and make sure it remains accessible, we’ve rounded up some useful tools to convert Flash to HTML5.
Back in 2017 Adobe officially announced that 2020 will be the last year of their support for the Adobe Flash Player plugin. This marks the demise of Flash-based content. So if you have content still running on Flash, you’ll have to make the transition to HTML5 for it to remain available for users on the web.
Read on to find the latest details on Flash’s end of life along with the tools required for Flash to HTML5 conversion.
Is it really the end of Flash?
Adobe Flash has been slowly pushed to the edge of the cliff for the last 10 years and now it’s finally time to say goodbye. Modern web technologies with cross-platform support and open-source code are taking over.
The interactive multimedia platform’s decline started when Apple rejected Flash back in 2007, refusing to use it for the iPhone’s operating system. Steve Jobs wisely anticipated the foundational change in the multimedia dimension and decided not to use it for Apple’s devices.
It took another critical hit when Youtube also switched from Flash to HTML5 in 2015 to accommodate mobile devices. Youtube users were growing irritated from constantly having to install updates for the Flash Player plugin. Youtube owners were frustrated with how they had to provide different versions of the video portal for mobile and desktop, so they also decided to switch to HTML5.
Following the lead, Google Chrome and other browsers made the switch to HTML5 that same year, which put the last nail in the coffin. After 2015 browsers started blocking Flash content from playing by default. Users had to manually enable it for every page. The main concern was that Flash ran in the background of the browser, causing serious issues in performance, stability, and security.
Facebook and other social media giants which are now platforms for casual games also went with HTML5 technologies.The era when Flash was known for its engaging, interactive, at times very bizarre games is now long in the past.
When is Flash shutting down?
December 31, 2020 was the last time a banner would ask us to turn on Flash to display some content. The plugin is to be removed completely from all browsers via Windows update. As for Macs, Apple has never been a huge supporter of Adobe Flash, so expect them to do the same.
This information is highly critical for companies that still use Flash-based ads. Same as for other Flash-based content in Chrome (and Chromium-based browsers), Flash-based Google and Bing advertisements required a click to be activated and weren’t available at all for mobile internet users. This class of content is now permanently blocked beyond the deadline, starting January 2021.
For those who relied on Flash content these few years after Adobe announced its retirement date – there’s no more room for hesitating. It’s time to make the transition to HTML5.
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Why is Flash going away after 2020?
Adobe Flash is going away because such open web standards as HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have developed and are now taking center stage. They allow the same functionality, before only available through the plugin, to be integrated directly into the browser.
A multitude of issues has plagued Flash for years. The main concern has always been lack of security as Adobe struggled to keep up with zero-day vulnerabilities being revealed every other month. Another downside of the player is that it was very heavy. At times Flash applications would drive CPU usage to 100% which would make users go crazy. Browser tabs with Flash content were always running in the background and viciously preying on systems resources, undermining the performance of currently active apps.
Steve Jobs summarized the downsides of Flash pretty well back in April 2010:
- Flash is not an open-source platform which sets barriers for developers and thus seriously impedes development and application of security patches to address faults and vulnerabilities.
- Modern video formats, such as the H.264 no longer need to be coated with an overlay. It can easily be distributed across desktop and mobile devices via HTML5 native video and audio with its convenient Canvas model, thus rendering it the best choice for new content developers.
- Adobe Flash is inherently unsafe and practically unstable, its security has been the main concern since its inception.
- The Flash standard has been designed for and remains centered on desktop devices. Whereas, the contemporary tech horizon is ruled by touch-based mobile devices that rely on lower power consumption with hardware-level decoding and open web standards.
Keeping all these shortcomings in mind, a vast majority of current content creators have wisely made the switch to developing multimedia and interactive web services based on the rich HTML5 platform. If your online products still have any kind of Adobe Flash dependencies, we highly recommend a timely Flash to HTML5 conversion.
Wondering how to play Flash games in 2021 and beyond?
Flash game players and particularly the fans will be taking the hardest blow. There are no automated tools for Flash to HTML5 conversion for this type of content out there. An average game project contains multiple .fla files that rely upon several Actionscript libraries as well as external classes compiled at runtime, coupled with source code .as2 or .as3 files depending on when the game was made (the Actionscript version). To put it simply, there is no magic conversion tool available to seamlessly turn all this into HTML and JS files without any loss.
The only solution to this problem is to recode the game using HTML5 web technologies and this redevelopment process is definitely not cheap. Keeping this in mind, we should expect only the major Flash game titles having large communities of players to make this transition. Otherwise, if you still would like to enjoy the good old flash-based games you used to play, refer to the Flashpoint project. These guys have worked hard to save over 49,000 games and more than 3,600 Flash animations through their web game preservation project.
HTML5 as the new web standard for multimedia content
Still wondering what will replace Flash? HTML5 and related technologies have been stepping on its heels for quite a while and now they are ready to take the throne. The latest version of HTML excels at adaptive content rendering – an area which was previously a serious setback. It also works smoothly for building mobile-ready applications, providing rich APIs whereas Flash was always struggling to accommodate mobile devices.
HTML5 is the latest development of the open web standards that allows creating more powerful and diverse websites with sophisticated multimedia and 2D/3D presentation technology built right in to allow immersive content viewing. With the help of native <video> and <audio> components, along with excessive JavasScript API to control interactive graphics, developers can embed first-class audio, video, and effects without the need to rely on third-party plugins such as Adobe Flash player.
HTML5 also presents intuitive and simple tools for creating subtitles and chapters in audio and video content, as well as Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) technology for controlling videoconferencing.
These simple open-source tools create a boundless environment for developers to build web products that can be used across all modern platforms, including touch-based devices.
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So let’s wave Adobe Flash goodbye and get ready for Flash to HTML5 conversion.
Create your action plan for Flash to HTML5 conversion
Decided you want to keep your amazing Flash content? Don’t know where to begin with the transition to HTML5? There’s a few things you should consider to prepare yourself for Flash conversion.
The amount of work to be done really depends on your project’s size, how much multimedia content it contains, its interactive features, their complexity, and how strongly Adobe Flash is involved. Another issue is the integrity of content itself. Does it stand the test of time? Most projects created just a few years ago will look outdated and probably require some refurbishment. Let alone, they might need a complete makeover or reproduction from scratch. A simple conversion won’t do in this situation.
You need to break down the project and evaluate the content you are dealing with. Some Flash features may not be possible to recreate with native web technologies. Some might not even be worth recreating in the first place.
If it’s just animation, video, or audio content, the conversion process is rather smooth. All we need to do is convert the specific layers and project’s assets from one document type to another. It’s much more challenging if you have an interactive game or other type of application. This means you will have to deal with converting actual ActionScript code.
First thing you would want to do is create an action plan for conversion. We propose the following steps to make your transition to modern web standards as smooth as possible:
- Locate and document your source files, check if anything is missing.
- Determine which graphic and animation assets can be reused.
- Create a cross-reference list and guide to follow during conversion.
- Determine the amount of ActionScript code and work-hours needed for recoding.
- Define a set of standard rules and requirements for all developers to follow.
- Acquire the proper tools and get started with Flash to HTML5 conversion.
Tools to convert Flash to HTML5 in 2021
The internet contains some information about the tools for converting Adobe Flash to HTML5, however, most of it is out-of-date. Some of the tools have been either discontinued or are no longer supported by their developers. For instance, Swiffy was a Flash to HTML5 converter introduced by Google back when Flash was being widely rejected after 2014. Google Swiffy was shut down in 2016 and is no longer available. To address this issue we’ve compiled an updated list of tools that you can conveniently use for Flash to HTML5 conversion.
The Flash to HTML5 conversion tools you need
See our list below for details about the available tools:
- Adobe Animate CC is the latest incarnation of the Flash Professional editor (and has been rebranded to differential itself as an animation tool without any Flash dependencies). It’s still essentially the same program though and such can still load original .fla files created with other versions of Flash Professional.
- Google Web Designer. Google recommends this free web editor for Flash to HTML5 conversion. It is a good choice if you don’t want to pay the price of Adobe’s subscription. However, you will have to pay an intrinsic price in terms of conversion quality as users report that complex Flash projects may have conversion issues.
Many companies have ported their AS3/Flash web-sites to Haxe/OpenFL, for example:
How an application/game is ported from AS3/Flash to Haxe/OpenFL?
AS3 code (similar to Haxe) needs to be ported to Haxe. A tool commonly used is ash3x. Although as3hx automagically converts AS3 to Haxe, it isn’t perfect (and was never meant to be). It gets you about 70% there and a programmer has to finish it off from there.
Despite the long-awaited demise of Adobe Flash in 2021, some content owners might still not have made the much-needed transition from Flash to HTML5. This means their users will lose access to their interactive games, video, and audio content. Deciding to remodel your animated content using modern web technologies is not an easy step, but it’s definitely achievable with the help of a team of qualified experts in web development.
We hope this guide and list of conversion tools proves useful to content makers and sets them on the right path. After all, it is the need of the hour to ensure a swift and successful transition to the new web standards.