Flash was an indispensable part of the web just a few short years ago. Attempting to browse without Adobe’s plugin would mean broken videos, menus, and plenty of frustration. However, Flash itself was never a great experience, and now most websites are moving beyond that. These days, Flash is mainly known for its disproportionate impact on performance and security flaws. Google is finally putting its considerable weight behind an effort to wean users off of Flash. By the end of this year, Chrome will no longer load Flash content directly. Instead, you’ll have to whitelist websites that run Flash.
Google calls this approach “HTML5 by Default.” Chrome has shipped with a bundled version of Flash player for several years now, and it will continue to do so. This was never an endorsement of Flash, merely a recognition of the security risk. At least by bundling the latest version with Chrome, users wouldn’t be running old and insecure builds. When Google flips the switch on this plan, that plugin won’t load automatically Flash content when you just happen across it. That’s only feasible because you see much less Flash on the web now.
With the rise of mobile devices, many sites have moved to HTML5 for rich media content. It’s considerably more efficient and allows for better scaling across devices. Even advertisers have gotten on board with HTML5. This is probably one of the reasons Google is finally looking to deemphasize Flash content. Most of Google’s revenue comes from selling ads, and it announced several months ago that it would phase out Flash ads on AdWords at the end of 2016. It will stop accepting new submissions for Flash ads on June 30th.
When the plan goes into effect, pages that support HTML5 will load that by default. Should you encounter a page that demands Flash, Chrome will produce a dialog at the top allowing you to enable Flash. The page then reloads with Flash temporarily enabled. Sites can be added to a permanent whitelist for Flash that allows it to run by default, andGoogle will include 10 popular sites that require Flash on the whitelist to start; for example Amazon and Facebook. However, these top sites will only be whitelisted for a year, after which time users will get the same prompt to enable Flash.
There are still a few types of content that rely on Flash, like simple web games and premium video content. However, the day is fast approaching when even that won’t be necessary. Adobe is already working on HTML5 tools that should provide many of Flash’s features.