Where are browsers in the face of the imminent demise of Flash?

Two years ago, Adobe announced that it would finally kill and bury Flash Player, the plug-in that simultaneously launched a million websites and gave security professionals nightmares.

The oft-abused technology, also hailed and despised even when it was at the top of its game, will land in digital landfill at the end of 2020, when the company said it would “stop updating and distributing the Flash Player “.

Browser makers quickly stepped in to tell their users how they were going to end Flash, setting sometimes specific, sometimes vague, timelines to reduce usage, believing that getting cold feet would catch site owners off guard. , would break the web and turn customers into angry peasants waving torches. and forks.

Two years after those first promises to remove Flash, where are the browsers? How about a status update?

Chromium this close to disable Flash by default

Starting with Chrome 76, which is the next version slated for delivery, Google’s browser will disable Flash by default, the state the browser will remain in until all support is removed at the end of 2020.

With Flash disabled by default – Chrome 76 will appear on July 30, or in six weeks – sites requiring the plugin will display the “missing puzzle piece” symbol and the “Adobe Flash Player is blocked” message. Users won’t be able to run Flash – at all – without accessing settings.

Only after reactivating Flash – Settings-> Advanced-> Site settings-> Flash-> Ask first – Will Chrome users be able to run Flash and view Flash content, and only after their explicit consent.

Google is think about adding what he called an “info bar” to the top of Chrome with the release of version 76. If the user manually reverts Flash through settings, the info bar will appear, warning that the plugin will no longer be supported after December 2020.

flash fig 1 kaput IDG / Gregg Keizer

Starting with Chrome 76, users will need to dive into settings to run Flash after seeing this message on a site.

Firefox soon to limit Flash options

At this point, Firefox continues to run Flash Player site by site when a user allows the action. And Firefox will remember which site has been authorized if the user checks the “Remember this decision” box in the pop-up window that appears when authorizing Flash.

At the beginning of September, Mozilla will take the next step of purging the plug-in. With Firefox 69, due for release on September 3, the browser loses the “Always on” option for Flash, which means that all the execution request must be approved by the user. From this point on, the only settings will be “Ask to activate”, the default and “Never activate”.

(Most Firefox users probably weren’t aware that there was an “Always on” setting that allowed them to avoid permission hassle. It’s in Preferences (macOS) and Options (Windows): Extensions & Themes-Plugins-> Shockwave Flash-> Always activate.)

Still to come for Firefox: Mozilla plans to remove all Flash support from the browser in early 2020. The exception will be the Extended Support Release (ESR) version of Firefox, designed for enterprise settings, which will continue to run on plug-in until 2020.

Similarly, Mozilla pointed out that barely half – 50.8% – of all copies of Firefox now have Flash installed.

fig 2 flash kaput IDG / Gregg Keizer

Firefox 69 from September will eliminate the “Always on” shortcut, requiring users to approve Flash every time on every site. No exceptions.

Edge in turmoil

What about Microsoft’s Edge?

Microsoft had a Fire-Flash plan two years ago. But then the developer from Redmond, Washington went in and decided to bag their version of Edge and go full chrome, replacing their core tech with the same one that drives Chrome.

While Microsoft didn’t necessarily tie into Google’s Flash timeline when adopting Chromium, the company is likely to copy the browser’s big dog. There’s no reason not to: Full-Chromium Edge won’t make any difference, one way or another, for websites still running Flash, not with its very small share.

By the time Microsoft will have Chromium Edge ready, Chrome will have long put version 76, and its Flash disabled by default behind it. Edge will do the same whether it launches this year or next.

When it comes to Internet Explorer (IE) and the old Edge, in 2017 Microsoft promised that somewhere between mid to late 2019, those browsers would default to a Flash disabled state. Users would have to manually re-enable Flash in browser settings panels to view content.

The change has not yet appeared in both browsers. (It wasn’t clear when Microsoft would launch the Flash Disabled Switch; there was no clue, for example, in the Edge Development Roadmap.) _

Since Microsoft only upgrades old-Edge when it issues a Windows 10 feature upgrade, the next opportunity will be the fall refresh, 1909 in the operating system yymm rating.

Microsoft has hinted that it will keep the old Edge even after the full delivery of Chromium Edge, it will therefore have to manage multiple browsers – IE also for Windows 10 users and latecomers still running Windows 7 – until their Flash end time.

fig 3 flash kaput IDG / Gregg Keizer

The old Edge, the one powered by Microsoft’s own EdgeHTML engine, still allows users to run Flash with minimal hassle. But the next “ full-Chromium ” Edge will likely mimic Chrome when it debuts.

Safari and the flash-free zone

Apple and Flash never really cared about each other. iOS has always been a non-Flash operating system, and macOS, formerly OS X, has omitted the Adobe plug-in since 2010, when Cupertino first told users to grab Flash themselves. (Meanwhile, Chrome, and later Edge, came with built-in Flash. Chrome abandoned this approach in 2016 with version 53. Since then, Flash has been downloaded in the background the first time the user of Chrome calls it to render the content.)

“Apple is working with Adobe, industrial partners and developers to complete this transition,” said July 2017 publication on the WebKit blog affirmed.

Nothing since.

Even if a user installs Flash on macOS, Safari still considers it to be disabled by default. And Safari still requires user approval on every site (although the user can tell that site to run Flash every time).

In other words, Apple hasn’t made any changes – and hasn’t announced any changes – to the way Safari treats Flash.

fig 4 flash kaput IDG / Gregg Keizer

Safari’s handling of Flash has not changed in the two years since Adobe announced the demise of the plug-in in 2020. This is still what users see when they click on content.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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