Flash is coming to the iPhone, thanks to Gordon

Developer Tobias Schneider created the software called “Gordon” which allows Flash apps to display on the iPhone. It’s a Flash interpreter written in Javascript the language which is supported by all web browsers including the iPhone for allowing elements on web pages to be interactive without requiring a full page refresh. Javascript is heavily used in web apps like Gmail and Facebook but until now has been mostly used in its pure form — it generally isn’t used to interpret other languages.

Schneider (pictured right next to Flash Gordon) married up Javascript with the iPhone’s inbuilt support for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) an open-source competitor to Flash which hasn’t taken off to the same extent as Flash due to the fact that Adobe had years of head-start in terms of getting the software installed on virtually all PCs.

The catch is that websites will have to be updated to include “Gordon” in their code as it’s not an app that installs on the iPhone. It sits in the code of the webpage and provides instructions to the iPhone’s Safari browser on how to display Flash files.

The software is still in a very early stage with Scheider noting in his browser compatibility table that it doesn’t work at all in the Opera browser and in Safari colour transformation currently does not work. He also hasn’t yet written any documentation on how to implement it however you can check out the source code here.

Schneider also said in his Twitter comments about Gordon that it currently only supports the SWF 1.0 format which all versions of Flash right through to CS4 can save down to and he is now working on adding support for the SWF 2.0 file format.

You can see some Flash demos on a page that has Gordon installed here.

The lack of Flash support on the iPhone OS has been one of the biggest complaints against it preventing iPhone users from browsing many websites that are built in Flash and preventing advertisers from reaching iPhone users with interactive Flash ads. Adobe has hinted that it has got Flash working on the iPhone but that Apple won’t allow it to be released under the current iPhone Appstore restrictions.

Although Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said Flash runs too slowly on the iPhone industry pundits have also observed that Apple has a strong vested interest in making the iPhone OS the mobile development platform of choice and if developers could produce apps in Flash that would work on any handset it could reduce the iPhone’s popularity as the “app” phone.

Jobs does have a point though — Flash advertisements on web pages are a prime culprit for CPUs going into overdrive as they struggle to keep up with animating many web pages in different tabs at once. That amount of constantly-running animation could be troublesome for the iPhone’s battery life.

However if Gordon gets to a state of completeness that would make it attractive to web developers there may be nothing Apple can do to stop Flash on the iPhone short of maliciously blocking the specific script from loading in iPhone Safari.