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Internet Archive to preserve Flash content for posterity with Ruffle emulator

WebAssembly-powered sandbox promised to be safer than the notorious plugin

The Internet Archive says it's found a way to preserve content created with Adobe's notoriously insecure Flash tool without risking user safety.

Preservation is needed because Adobe will end support for Flash after 31 December. Browsers only grudgingly allow Flash to run today and enthusiastically stop supporting it not long after Adobe pulls the plug.

It's widely expected that once support ends, bad actors will unleash flaws they've kept quiet to go about their nefarious ways.

The archive argues that while Flash is a hot mess, plenty of creators have done good work using the tech and those efforts deserve to remain available as artefacts that show how animation and video became widespread features of the Web.

WebAssembly Explorer

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The archive's secret weapon is Ruffle, a Flash emulator written in Rust that can run in any modern browser that supports WebAssembly. The big four – Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari – all include WebAssembly, which allows the creation of a sandboxed execution environment that runs inside a browser.

"Leveraging the safety of the modern browser sandbox and the memory safety guarantees of Rust, we can confidently avoid all the security pitfalls that Flash had a reputation for," wrote Ruffle's developers.

The Internet Archive's Jason Scott admitted that Ruffle isn't perfect but feels it will be good enough to preserve Flash content. "While Ruffle's compatibility with Flash is less than 100 per cent, it will play a very large portion of historical Flash animation in the browser, at both a smooth and accurate rate," he wrote.

The archive already has a collection of Flash-tastic artefacts and invites further contributions. Instructions on how to do so can be found at the end of Scott's post. ®

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