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Working with application domains

The purpose of the ApplicationDomain class is to store a table of ActionScript 3.0 definitions. All code in a SWF file is defined to exist in an application domain. You use application domains to partition classes that are in the same security domain. This allows multiple definitions of the same class to exist and also lets children reuse parent definitions.

You can use application domains when loading an external SWF file written in ActionScript 3.0 using the Loader class API. (Note that you cannot use application domains when loading an image or SWF file written in ActionScript 1.0 or ActionScript 2.0.) All ActionScript 3.0 definitions contained in the loaded class are stored in the application domain. When loading the SWF file, you can specify that the file be included in the same application domain as that of the Loader object, by setting the applicationDomain parameter of the LoaderContext object to ApplicationDomain.currentDomain. By putting the loaded SWF file in the same application domain, you can access its classes directly. This can be useful if you are loading a SWF file that contains embedded media, which you can access via their associated class names, or if you want to access the loaded SWF file's methods.

The following example assumes it has access to a separate Greeter.swf file that defines a public method named welcome():

import flash.display.Loader;
import flash.display.Sprite;
import flash.system.ApplicationDomain;
import flash.system.LoaderContext;

public class ApplicationDomainExample extends Sprite
private var ldr:Loader;
public function ApplicationDomainExample()
ldr = new Loader();
var req:URLRequest = new URLRequest("Greeter.swf");
var ldrContext:LoaderContext = new LoaderContext(false, ApplicationDomain.currentDomain);
ldr.contentLoaderInfo.addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, completeHandler);
ldr.load(req, ldrContext);
private function completeHandler(event:Event):void
var myGreeter:Class = ApplicationDomain.currentDomain.getDefinition("Greeter") as Class;
var myGreeter:Greeter = Greeter(;
var message:String = myGreeter.welcome("Tommy");
trace(message); // Hello, Tommy

Also see the ApplicationDomain class example in the ActionScript 3.0 Reference for the Adobe Flash Platform.

Other things to keep in mind when you work with application domains include the following:

  • All code in a SWF file is defined to exist in an application domain. The current domain is where your main application runs. The system domain contains all application domains, including the current domain, which means that it contains all Flash Player classes.

  • All application domains, except the system domain, have an associated parent domain. The parent domain for your main application's application domain is the system domain. Loaded classes are defined only when their parent doesn't already define them. You cannot override a loaded class definition with a newer definition.

The following diagram shows an application that loads content from various SWF files within a single domain, Depending on the content you load, different application domains can be used. The text that follows describes the logic used to set the appropriate application domain for each SWF file in the application.

A. Usage A

B. Usage B

C. Usage C

The main application file is application1.swf. It contains Loader objects that load content from other SWF files. In this scenario, the current domain is Application domain 1. Usage A, usage B, and usage C illustrate different techniques for setting the appropriate application domain for each SWF file in an application.

Usage A

Partition the child SWF file by creating a child of the system domain. In the diagram, Application domain 2 is created as a child of the system domain.The application2.swf file is loaded in Application domain 2, and its class definitions are thus partitioned from the classes defined in application1.swf.

One use of this technique is to have an old application dynamically loading a newer version of the same application without conflict. There is no conflict because although the same class names are used, they are partitioned into different application domains.

The following code creates an application domain that is a child of the system domain, and starts loading a SWF using that application domain:

var appDomainA:ApplicationDomain = new ApplicationDomain();

var contextA:LoaderContext = new LoaderContext(false, appDomainA);
var loaderA:Loader = new Loader();
loaderA.load(new URLRequest("application2.swf"), contextA);

Usage B

Add new class definitions to current class definitions. The application domain of module1.swf is set to the current domain (Application domain 1). This lets you add to the application's current set of class definitions with new class definitions. This could be used for a run-time shared library of the main application. The loaded SWF is treated as a remote shared library (RSL). Use this technique to load RSLs by a preloader before the application starts.

The following code loads a SWF, setting its application domain to the current domain:

var appDomainB:ApplicationDomain = ApplicationDomain.currentDomain;

var contextB:LoaderContext = new LoaderContext(false, appDomainB);
var loaderB:Loader = new Loader();
loaderB.load(new URLRequest("module1.swf"), contextB);

Usage C

Use the parent's class definitions by creating a new child domain of the current domain. The application domain of module3.swf is a child of the current domain, and the child uses the parent's versions of all classes. One use of this technique might be a module of a multiple-screen rich Internet application (RIA), loaded as a child of the main application, that uses the main application's types. If you can ensure that all classes are always updated to be backward compatible, and that the loading application is always newer than the things it loads, the children will use the parent versions. Having a new application domain also allows you to unload all the class definitions for garbage collection, if you can ensure that you do not continue to have references to the child SWF.

This technique lets loaded modules share the loader's singleton objects and static class members.

The following code creates a new child domain of the current domain, and starts loading a SWF using that application domain:

var appDomainC:ApplicationDomain = new ApplicationDomain(ApplicationDomain.currentDomain);

var contextC:LoaderContext = new LoaderContext(false, appDomainC);
var loaderC:Loader = new Loader();
loaderC.load(new URLRequest("module3.swf"), contextC);