Flash was an integral part of the internet in years past, but it has also been a drag on performance and the source of a great many security vulnerabilities. Today, HTML5 is a better way to get the same sort of interactive content running on the web, and it works on mobile devices. The next phase in Adobe Flash’s agonizingly slow demise starts next month when Google Chrome begins blocking all Flash content.
This will come as part of the Chrome 53 update, which should be available in early September. Chrome 53 will block all the small, non-visible Flash elements on web pages. These are usually tacking platforms and page analytics, but they can slow down page loads just like larger Flash content. This is not Google’s first attempt to de-emphasize Flash on the web. Last year in Chrome 52, Google made most Flash content “click-to-play.”
So, what’s different now? In Chrome 52, the Flash block only applied to Flash objects that were above a certain size, but now that’s being extended to smaller Flash objects. The previous restriction was in place because at the time, there was no reliable way to detect viewability. Now, Chrome’s intersection observer API allows that. You will have the option to enable Flash objects on a page if they are necessary for the experience. If non-visible Flash objects are blocked, an icon in the address bar will alert you.
Google says that all Chrome users will see a benefit from this move. All the Flash objects loading in the background can make page loading sluggish. If you’re on a laptop, Flash also gobbles up power and reduces your battery life. Flash’s innate inefficiency is why it never took off on mobile devices.click-to-play
While Flash content will be blocked in general, Google is making a temporary exception for some popular sites that still rely heavily upon Flash. Those include Facebook, Twitch, and Yahoo, among others. You’ll be prompted to enable Flash on these sites when loading them, but Google plans to phase out the Flash whitelist over time. When Chrome 55 rolls out in December, HTML5 will become the default experience. It’s not clear how exactly that will affect the whitelist.
The writing is on the wall for Flash; it’s not just Google waging a war on the archaic plug-in. Firefox 48 was announced last week with some Flash content being click-to-play and all Flash being blocked by default in 2017. Even Microsoft is cutting Flash off at the knees. In the Windows 10 anniversary update, Edge uses click-to-play for non-essential Flash elements. Another year or two and we’ll be all done with this.