Mozilla intends to completely eradicate the need for any browser plugins and “advance the open web platform to securely process rich media formats” as they state in the blog post that introduced the Shumway project nearly a year ago. To that end, they’ve been focusing on the web’s most popular plugins, including the sticky, persistent (and CPU-hungry) Flash player.
Despite early hopes that HTML5 would gracefully and efficiently replace Flash for video handling and more, too many hurdles remain. Besides the tons of legacy Flash content — that won’t be going away anytime soon — HTML5 is a much more time-intensive medium for creators of advanced animations, and has yet to offer consistent experiences across browsers and platforms. Perhaps the biggest disappointment: even the cleanest HTML5 doesn’t deliver smooth, lag-free experiences that compare with a well-coded Flash presentation.
Shumway has been available as a browser extension for some time now, but significantly, core code was also placed in the Firefox Nightly on October 2.
If you decide to check out the Shumway-loaded release of the Nightly, be aware you’ll still need to fiddle with a few things to activate it: it’s not enabled by default. Check the ghacks.net post for the list of steps that will get it going.
So far, Shumway is too wobbly for prime time, with inconsistent performance, including some confusing behavior and some utter fails. Still, this is a virtually embryonic release, barely the faintest foreshadowing of an Alpha version… and Mozilla’s forward progress on the project can be best described as unrelenting.
It’s hard to predict if Shumway will succeed in finally killing the Flash player, but if Adobe had made this kind of progress developing an open source SWF interpreter five years ago the Flash platform would have experienced virtually no decline at all.
Would an open source Flash player alternative tempt you back to the SWF format? Is Flash better off forgotten? Let us know in the comments.