JavaScript library lets iPad read Flash advertisements

Flash advertisements are converted in a web browser to JavaScript and HTML5

A mobile advertising company has written a JavaScript library that makes Flash advertisements viewable on devices such as the iPad, working around Apple's opposition to Adobe Systems' multimedia platform.

The library, called Smokescreen, renders Flash advertisements into JavaScript and HTML5 within the browser if a device can't read Flash. Smokescreen, which was primarily developed by Chris Smoak of RevShockAds, means that companies that create Flash advertisements don't have to build a different version of an ad in order to reach millions of iPhone and iPad users.

"Many people still want to use their existing Adobe tools for developing ads, and retooling to support a single platform seems silly," according to Smokescreen's blog.

Smokescreen does need up-to-date browsers, and the demo advertisements works on Firefox 3.6, Chrome 5, Safari 4 and the mobile version of Safari. It won't run yet on Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 although it "looks promising," according to developers. There are "known, fixable" issues with Opera 10.5.

Smokescreen's code will soon be released under an open-source license. Its developers have posted a preview along with demos. Low-cost support and service options will eventually be made available, according to Smokescreen's blog.

Developers appear to be excited by Smokescreen. "Chris Smoak’s Smokescreen, 'a Flash player written in JavaScript,' is an incredible piece of work," wrote Simon Willison, co-creator of Django, a framework for building Web applications in the Python language, on his blog.

However, Willison wrote that "my one concern is performance — the library is 175 KB and over 8,000 lines of JavaScript which might cause problems on low-powered mobile devices."

Smokescreen's JavaScript library must be downloaded and executed on a Web browser. Since mobile devices have much less processing power than desktop computers, the time it takes to render the advertisement may vary by device. The developers warn that Smokescreen is not as fast as a Flash plugin, but that performance could be improved.

A test of Smokescreen's demos on an iPhone showed that the more complex the animation, the slower the advertisement rendered. On a desktop computer, the performance was faster.

"Since Smokescreen is written in JavaScript, it is slower than the Flash plugin and is limited in speed by the performance of the browser," according to Smokescreen's blog. "Until we pull more tricks out of our sleeves to boost the speed, realize that some demos will not run at acceptable speeds on iPad/iPhone/iPod devices and are categorized appropriately."

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