Google Sticks Another Knife in Flash's Corpse

The Chrome browser as seen on a computer in 2008, back when Flash was relevant.
Photo: Paul Sakuma (AP)

The killing blow to multimedia software Flash made contact with its skull in 2017, when maker Adobe announced that it would begin Flash’s “end-of-life” phase and stop updating and distributing it by the end of 2020. Flash—which nerds of a certain age cohort may remember from sites like Newgrounds or files like “annoying.swf”—has been riddled with security holes that allowed malware delivery since way before the Flash brand was officially retired in 2015, and it’s long been replaced in all but niche uses by successors like the open-source HTML5.

The release of Chrome 76, the latest version of Google’s ultra-popular browser, was noteworthy mostly because it killed off a “loophole” that allowed tracking even when browsing in Incognito Mode. But as VentureBeat noted, it also flipped over Flash’s carcass and thrust another pointy object in there just to be sure. While Chrome introduced features to automatically pause Flash content that wasn’t “central to the webpage” in 2015, and it began blocking Flash content that runs in the background and running HTML5 by default in 2016, Chrome 76 will make sure most users never encounter Flash in the first place.

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Prior versions of Chrome left open the option to run Flash by explicit user request on a case-by-case basis for legacy purposes. Chrome 76, however, blocks all Flash content by default and requires users to dig into their settings to run it at all. Per the Chromium roadmap:

Flash Disabled by Default (Target: Chrome 76+ - July 2019)

Summary

Flash will be disabled by default, but can be enabled in Settings at which point explicit permission is still required for each site when the browser is restarted.

Rationale

Require affirmative user choice to run Flash Player.

It’s fair to say that this means the vast majority of Chrome users won’t bother to do this, if they can even be bothered to remember what Flash is at all. And good riddance, seeing as most of the Flash content that is actually worth preserving is likely to have been converted to another format, is now on YouTube or another platform somewhere, or can always be run in a dedicated player if you really need to.

The Chromium roadmap calls for the browser to stop supporting any version of Flash by December 2020, lining up with the termination of Adobe’s end-of-life plan. At that point, we’ll finally be free of its baleful influence. Or, at the very least, so has been foretold.

[VentureBeat]

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post