With market dominance among the browsers that remain on the internet, Google Chrome holds the distinguished position as the last browser that has support for Flash websites. Adobe Flash compatibility has been kicked to the curb by Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Firefox recently, and newcomer Vivaldi doesn’t support it either. Chrome offers a built-in Flash engine that doesn’t need to be updated separately, and this has allowed Google to maintain compatibility and ensure that silly decisions on Adobe’s part don’t end up breaking the internet. Well, the final call for Flash has come up, and the Chrome browser finally makes it a second-class citizen on the interwebs.
Replying to a topic posted in the Chromium developer’s forum, Google technical lead developer Anthony Laforge mapped out the development team’s plans in putting Flash websites on the backburner, and revealed that Chrome and it’s open-source sibling, Chromium, will soon ship with a new option for users to set whether they want to keep Flash content running automatically, or whether they want to kill it off completely.
In the team’s proposal, Laforge outlined that Google would be taking a user-centric approach rather than allowing websites to dictate what settings should be used. These proposals include:
Flash Player will continue to be bundled in Chrome, but it won’t be on by default
If a website offers HTML5, Chrome will automatically load that version without user intervention
If a website requires Flash, a pop-up will notify the user and an option will be given to switch if desired, or to allow Flash content to run
Website settings for this pop-up will be saved for future visits to the same URL
Popular websites that require Flash currently will be on a whitelist of approved sites that load Flash automatically, which is to be taken down after one year
If a website usually links users to a prompt to download Adobe Flash, Chrome will intercept that message and replace it with the pop-up asking the user to enable Flash content. This is a much better solution, and might be the point at which sites like Pandora and Twitch.tv begin to figure out an HTML5 rollout as quickly as possible.
Although there’s no risk of the site being unusable a year after Google implements this change, it is a sign that the search giant is serious about getting rid of the platform, or finding alternative ways to maintain security and offer the user choice in the matter of how they want to approach using services designed on an old and insecure platform.
The controls for the new functionality appear to be quite simple, and might appear in a future beta build of Chrome that users can download. Users can choose between having Flash functionality always on, allow automatically, allow on prompt, and always off. What I think most people should resort to doing is turning Flash off completely in this menu, but set up your own list of exceptions in a whitelist. That way you’ll get control over what websites you visit that can run their Flash content, and it’ll be more secure by default everywhere else.
By doing that, you’ll also be signaling to Google that you’re comfortable with Flash being turned off by default, which is a good thing. Chrome does report back on what security settings people use and tinker with, and the Chromium development team does take this into account when doing UI changes or adding in new features. If users need Flash to remain embedded to run certain websites and services, it’s clear that Google understands they cannot kill it off completely.
According to Google’s statistics, these websites will be on Chrome’s own whitelist when this feature rolls out, as parts of their services are reliant on Flash and cannot function without it. Youtube, despite migrating to HTML5 for new videos years ago, still uses Flash Player for their video editor and manager.
This change is still a proposal at the current stage, and open for comment by anyone who joins the Google Chromium developers forum. If you’re a web developer, you can have your say in this thread. As a user, you can keep an eye out for the beta build in which this feature appears, and voice your support by tuning these settings to your needs and liking.