How to play Flash content in your browser in 2021
Adobe Flash will no longer be supported in 2021; Adobe released the final Flash update in December 2020 and announced that it will disable Flash functionality in 2021. Major browsers such as Chrome, Edge or Firefox won't support Flash either anymore, and these decisions lead to a question that none of the decision makers have provided an answer for: what if a user needs to access Flash content after 2020, and what happens to Flash content that is still available on the Internet as it won't just vanish when the technology is disabled?
One option comes in the form of preservation projects. Examples are the Flash Games Preservation Project that preserves hundreds of Gigabytes worth of Flash content, specifically games, and the Internet Archive, which makes Flash content playable in an emulator on the archive's website.
The Internet Archive uses an emulator that is called Ruffle; the emulator is written in Rust and it supports all modern operating systems and modern we browsers that support WebAssembly. What is interesting about Ruffle is that its developers have created browser extensions for Firefox, Chromium-based browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Brave, Opera, or Vivaldi, and for Safari.
Installation of Ruffle in the browser of choice adds Flash emulation to the browser. The browser detects Flash content automatically and you can play it then as if Flash would still be installed.
Installation of ruffle
The extension is not hosted on the Chrome Web Store or the Mozilla Add-ons Store at the time of writing. It is considered in development and should be run on development machines or test systems only for the time being.
Firefox users need to do the following to install the ruffle extension in the browser:
- Download the latest version of ruffle for Firefox from the official download site.
- Load about:debugging in the browser's address bar.
- Select "This Firefox" (or This Nightly) in the sidebar.
- Activate the "Load Temporary Add-on button".
- Select the downloaded XPI file to load it as a temporary extension in Firefox.
The extension is loaded temporarily only; it will be removed when you restart the browser.
Google Chrome (works in other Chromium-based browsers as well)
- Download the latest version of ruffle for Chromium-based browsers from the official download site.
- Unpack the archive once it is downloaded.
- Load chrome://extensions/ in the address bar.
- Enable Developer Mode on the page that opens.
- Select Load unpacked and pick the folder you unpacked the extension to.
How effective is ruffle at emulating Flash content in browsers?
The current version of ruffle does not emulate 100% of Flash and that means that you will run into Flash content that you cannot play using current versions of the emulator. Ruffle will tell you that but there is nothing you can do about it but wait for the developers to improve the emulator further.
Still, quite a bit of Flash content plays already using ruffle.
Ruffle is a handy extension as it re-introduces Flash support in web browsers. While emulation is not perfect, there are lots of Flash apps and games that play fine in ruffle already.
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