IE11 leaves Flash media hanging on YouTube, more major sites

It looked like Microsoft was going to fix IE11's Flash problems with this month's Black Tuesday patches, but no such luck

If you're having problems getting Flash sites to display properly in Internet Explorer 11 -- whether you're running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 -- you aren't alone. The support forums are clogged with complaints, citing different symptoms, from sites (including YouTube) that don't render properly and/or freeze completely to BSODs to repeated, bogus exhortations to download the latest Flash player. Microsoft hasn't come up with an explanation, much less a fix. The IE patch delivered on Black Tuesday earlier this month was supposed to help, but it doesn't. The only solution that seems to work: Use Firefox or Chrome.

To understand the nature of the problem, it helps to know the history. Adobe Flash has long been one of the three primary infection targets for Windows PCs, with Adobe Acrobat and browser-based JavaScript providing the other favored vectors. Adobe was never able to plug the security holes, and Windows customers suffered.

When Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 10 in conjunction with Windows 8 back in August 2012, it shipped the Flash player as an integrated part of the browser. (Google did the same with the Chrome Flash player years before.) The IE10 Flash player rolled out with great fanfare, as Microsoft assured us it was fortified with security sandboxes galore. Starting in IE10, customers didn't have to update Flash; Microsoft took care of the onerous chore as part of its IE patches. IE10 blocked access to Flash animations, except for those sites that appeared on a Microsoft-maintained whitelist. Thus, the big name sites with Flash, such as YouTube, got the green light, and IE10 used its built-in Flash player to run Flash media on YouTube.

That all changed abruptly on March 12, 2013, when Microsoft announced it was turning its IE10 Flash whitelist into an IE10 Flash blacklist. The built-in Flash player continued to operate as before, but the XML file that contained the whitelisted websites was modified to contain the blacklisted websites.

Then came Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11. I started seeing references to bad problems with IE11's built-in Flash player shortly after the Windows 8.1 upgrade shipped. Now that IE11 is available for Windows 7 (and Windows 8), those Flash problems seem to have migrated.

Symptoms run quite a gamut. The Microsoft Answers site goes through a litany of problems:

  • Flash doesn't work uploading or downloading Facebook photos
  • Real estate MLS sites using Corelogic Fusion MLS don't work
  • Yahoo's home page says you have to install Flash (pshaw -- it's built in to IE11)
  • A banking system doesn't align columns correctly
  • MP4s won't stream
  • videos won't play, nor will videos

At least half a dozen fixes appear in the thread, but none succeed in all cases.

Over on the Yahoo Answers site, there are multiple reports of IE11 freezing with YouTube videos, BSODs while watching, "recover webpage" errors, and more.

On Google's YouTube support site, even more complaints have surfaced.

I've received several emails from Win7 and Win8.1 users complaining that certain websites report that Flash needs to be updated, but a trip to the Flash site says the latest version's installed -- all of which is malarkey because Flash is internal to IE11.

Microsoft's explanation, Why won't videos play in Internet Explorer, has a laundry list of fixes, some of which appear to work in some cases, none of which work all the time.

If you're looking for an IE11 fix, I feel confident in saying that one single fix doesn't exist, although some of the alternative fixes on offer may work in specific situations. The best solution is to use Chrome or Firefox.

Heaven only knows if/when Microsoft will take the problems seriously enough to fix them. Make no mistake: This isn't an Adobe problem. It's a Microsoft problem.

This article, "IE11 leaves Flash media hanging on YouTube, more major sites," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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