Developers take issue with Microsoft cutting plug-in support in Metro IE10

Developers worry how Web apps reliant on Flash, Silverlight, and LastPass will function in Windows 8 Metro-mode

In a move reminiscent of Apple's notorious dissing of Adobe Flash, Microsoft has announced that the Metro-style version of Internet Explorer 10 that comes with Windows 8 will not support plug-ins of any kind. Rather, Microsoft is betting that HTML5 can do the work necessary to deliver, say, Flash content to Web users.

This doesn't mean that Microsoft is cutting off support for any and all plug-ins in IE10; the desktop IE10 application will continue to fully support all plug-ins and extensions, according to a blog post by Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky. Still, the announcement has some developers worried that Microsoft's approach could wreak havoc on hard-developed Web apps that rely on Flash and Silverlight or that support LastPass. Also, it can't come as good news to Adobe, whose reputation and dignity took a hit when Steve Jobs declared that Adobe's software "performs too slow to be useful" on the smartphone.

Microsoft offers this on-the-record rationale for cutting plug-in support from Metro IE 10: "Running Metro style IE plug-in free improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers. Plug-ins were important early on in the Web's history. But the Web has come a long way since then with HTML5. Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI," Sinofsky wrote.

As one might predict, Microsoft's announcement has been received with a mixed, vocal reception. One of the threads among critics is, what happens when a Metro IE user accesses a site that requires a Flash plug-in? Sinofsky argued that Microsoft examined nearly 100,000 websites worldwide and found that "many of the 62 percent of these sites that currently use Adobe Flash already fall back to HTML5 video in the absence of plug-in support."

Notably, he wasn't overly clear on what "many of the 62 percent" meant -- or whether HTML5 successfully replicated the Flash experience.

Respondents took issue that Sinofsky built his case for a Flash-less browser around the fact that HTML5 can handle the language's video duties. "This article just uses video for its argument, but not Web design or application/game development," wrote user SDreamer. "Killing off Flash effectively kills off millions of cross-platform applications that run through web browsers. I think being able to run Flash, the best out of the bunch, has been a highlight of why these mobile browsers are behind."

Respondents also expressed concern as to what this means for Silverlight: "As another Silverlight developer, I'm very disappointed," reads a response to Sinofsky's post. "We have customers who want their software to be a run on the Mac and PC. Silverlight is the most effective way to do that, but now they are not going to be able to run it on a tablet. We have to develop a separate application using different Xaml!"

Others have expressed concerned that Metro IE10 won't support LastPass, a freeware password management plug-in. Over at the Windows Dev Center forums, contributor Jamie Thomson noted that he had no qualms with Flash not being allowed -- but said he was "seriously concerned that LastPass will no longer function as it does today (i.e. flawlessly). If you don't allow LastPass add-ins, then please consider an alternative way. One suggestion might be one of these new-fangled contracts things, i.e. a contract that is capable of providing credentials."

Another commenter dinged Microsoft for rolling out a "schizophrenic OS" in Windows 8. "The idea of having one single OS but having two apps schema, and one is restricted compared to the other, is awkward to me," wrote a respondent with the username Tiago. "Steven said you might never leave the Metro experience. Right, but you can't watch Flash. But it's the same OS, Windows 8, right? I am scratching my head trying to figure out the logic of it."

This story, "Developers take issue with Microsoft cutting plug-in support in Metro IE10," 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 developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.


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