Flash is down but not out in the latest version of Chrome

Don't believe reports that Chrome 55, released over the weekend, 'kills' Flash. But it is a significant step in the ongoing battle against Flash

Flash is down but not out in the latest version of Chrome
Credit: Isaac Bowen

If you haven’t restarted Google Chrome since Friday, now would be a good time to do so. Most systems updated from Chrome version 54 to Chrome 55 over the weekend, and Chrome 55 brings welcome changes in the ongoing battle against Flash.

News reports abound that say Chrome 55 “kills” Flash. It does nothing of the sort. Instead, it makes a few key changes in how users interact with web pages that contain Flash animations. InfoWorld's Paul Krill talked about the evolution of Chrome and the devolution of Flash back in August, when Chrome 53 started turning the Flash screws.

Here’s how the change is rolling out:

  •  In September, Chrome 53 started blocking small Flash programs – primarily page hit counters, ads, peripheral animations, and little Flash junk.
  •  In October, Chrome 54 changed embedded YouTube links so they no longer point to Flash clips but to HTML 5. (Remember that Google owns YouTube.)
  • Now Chrome 55 uses HTML5 by default when a site offers both Flash and HTML5 versions of its content. That’s a significant step on the road to killing Flash, but it’s hardly a head shot.

The switch to HTML5-by-default contains some key exceptions–and the details at this point are still murky. In general, Chrome users won’t be prompted to use Flash on some sites. Precisely which sites remains up in the air.

According to posts on Ycombinator’s Hacker News blog, the original plan for establishing a “whitelist” of the 10 top Flash-encumbered sites was shelved in October and replaced by a feature called Site Engagement, which bypasses the prompt on sites that users frequent.

In that same thread, profmonocle says:

Has Google confirmed this [Site Engagement] actually made it into Chrome 55? Their blog post about the release doesn’t mention it. One of the article’s sources is from earlier this year, and the developer thread they link to has been quiet for about a month. I wonder if plans changed and they’re leaving it behind a flag for now, or if they’re A/B testing it somehow.

I expect we’ll learn more this week.

Google is inching ahead in the war against Flash, but its competitors have also taken up the cause. Microsoft’s Edge changed with Win10 Anniversary Update (version 1607) to:

Intelligently auto-pause content that is not central to the webpage… Over time, we will provide users additional control over the use of Flash (including content central to the page) and monitor the prevalence of Flash on the web.

Firefox has taken initial steps as well, with Firefox engineering chief Benjamin Smedberg claiming:

In 2017, Firefox will require click-to-activate approval from users before a website activates the Flash plugin for any content.

Say good night, Flash–not a moment too soon.

The story continues on AskWoody.com.

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