Google launched an experimental tool called Swiffy in its Labs today, allowing developers to convert Flash (SWF) files to HTML5. That means you can reuse Flash content on devices without a Flash Player, even iPhone and iPads, explains Google on the project's Labs' page. And Swiffy's output works in all Webkit browsers, including Chrome and Safari.

The idea for the tool came from Google engineering intern Pieter Senster, who joined the mobile ad team last summer and later become a full time employee. Senster wanted to address the challenge of running Flash-like animations on non-Flash devices, specially for mobile ads.

Now, with Swiffy, that's possible. To use the program, you simply upload a SWF file and Swiffy returns HTML5 output. Swiffy is still in its early stages, though, so it won't convert all Flash content, only ads and simple animations for now.

As for the technical underpinnings, Swiffy uses a compact JSON representation of the animation, which is rendered using SVG, HTML5 and CSS3. ActionScript 2.0 is present in the JSON object, too, and is interpreted as JavaScript in the browser. That means, Google explained in a blog post, that Swiffy's animations are "almost as compact as the original SWF files."

It's great, but also a bit odd, that Google is looking into Flash alternatives, considering that it partnered with Adobe to bake Flash support into its Google Chrome Web browser. But clearly, when it comes to business, what's good for ads is what's best for Google. And what's best for Google is making sure ads work everywhere.

Swiffy vs. Wallaby

It should also be noted that Adobe launched a similar tool known as Wallaby in March. Like Swiffy, Wallaby converts Flash to HTML5, and again, mainly for the purpose of converting ads. Google explains the differences between the two programs in its FAQ:

Wallaby is an installable tool that converts .fla files, whereas Swiffy is a web-based tool that converts .swf files. Wallaby focuses on reusing parts of a Flash file in HTML, and thus produces code that can be edited by the developer, whereas Swiffy generates an efficient format that is not that easily editable.

For what's it's worth, Adobe says it's happy about Swiffy:

Adobe is pleased to see the Flash platform extended to devices which don't support the Flash player. The result is that anyone creating rich or interactive ads can continue to get all the authoring benefits of Flash Pro and have the flexibility to run the ad in the Flash Player or HTML depending on what's available on the system. Google and Adobe look forward to close collaboration around efforts like these.