IE10 Metro Won't Run Flash Unless Your Site Is on a Microsoft Whitelist

Yeah, you read that right. I just received an interesting email from Brightcove (the video delivery guys) about issues with their Flash based solution and Windows 8 running the new Internet Explorer 10.

To quote:

We wanted to make you aware of a development with Microsoft around Windows 8 that may affect your video content delivered through Brightcove Video Cloud.

Background
Microsoft is expected to release the next version of Windows, Windows 8, on October 26th. With Windows 8, Microsoft has made a decision to limit the use of Flash as a means for delivering content and move toward a concept of a plug-in free experience in Internet Explorer 10. As a result, sites will not be allowed to serve Flash in Internet Explorer 10 unless they have been given prior approval and have been whitelisted by Microsoft.

What this means for you
The default browser experience in the new Windows UI will not allow Flash unless the site has been approved and granted access by Microsoft. Therefore, if a Brightcove Video Cloud customer is looking for a full featured playback experience that is on par with Windows 7 today, they will need to submit a request to Microsoft in order to be whitelisted.

My initial reaction was "surely not???" and a quick search of the web indicates that there is a great deal of confusion as to what the IE10 behavior will actually be. However the Brightcove email provides an link to a handy Microsoft support article which clears things up.

Basically:

  • Windows 8 ships with two (!) versions of Internet Explorer 10. One for the desktop experience and one for the Windows UI experience.
  • Both ship with a built in version of Flash BUT the Windows UI version won't run Flash unless your site is on a whitelist. The Desktop version will run Flash as normal.
  • You can add a meta tag to your pages which will trigger a prompt to the user to run your site in the desktop IE if they visit it using the Windows UI version of IE (a lovely user experience… not.)
  • Lastly they give details on how you get you site added to the whitelist (basically emailing Microsoft with the details of your site and details of how it conforms to Microsoft's Flash Content Guidelines)

Buried in the support article is the following reasoning for the difference in behavior between the Desktop and Windows UI IE version's Flash support:

While any site can play Flash content in Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop, only sites that are on the Compatibility View (CV) list for Flash can play Flash content within Internet Explorer 10 in the the new Windows UI. We place sites with Flash content on the CV list if doing so delivers the best user experience in Internet Explorer 10 with those sites. For example, how responsive is the content to touch? Does it work well with the onscreen keyboard, or affect battery life? Do visual prompts comply with the Windows Store app user experience guidelines? Sites that rely on capabilities (for example, rollover events and peer-to-peer (P2P) functionality) that are not supported within Windows UX guidelines for Windows Store apps, and don't degrade gracefully in their absence, are better off running in Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop with Flash.

Which seems fair enough but kinda underscores the point that having the Windows UI on the desktop version of Windows 8 (and making it the default) doesn't really make sense when you consider what the user will be doing when they sit down at a PC to work.

It will be interesting to see if Windows 8 lands with a splash or a thud on October 26. I suspect it might be a thud and a whimper. Certainly it looks like Flash and the web are going to be in for a rough ride.


Jonathan Ackerman is a tech guy living in Middle Earth. A father of two with more then 20 years of experience in IT.