Google Chrome's plan to kill Flash kicks into high gear

Google's long-running strategy to kill Flash usage is nearing its endgame this December.

Google is getting serious about ending the reign of Adobe Flash on the web.

The company recently detailed a timeline for bringing Flash on Chrome to an end—kind of. Even in these late stages of Flash’s life on the web you still can’t kill it off entirely. Instead, Google says it will “de-emphasize” Flash to the point where it’s almost never used except when absolutely necessary.

Behind the scenes

The first major change to Flash on Chrome will land in September with Chrome 53, when Google plans to block all page analytics that rely on Flash. Instead of seeing a visual element, Flash-based analytics happen entirely behind-the-scenes and load in the background. Even so, it’s still Flash usage as far as your computer’s concerned. Once Chrome starts blocking background-loading Flash, Google says it will save you more battery life, as well as bring faster page loads and improve site responsiveness.

Finally in December, Chrome will default to HTML5-based media instead of Flash. Most major sites offer their video in both Flash and HTML5 formats, often defaulting to Flash when it’s available. For Google's browser, that ends in December when Chrome 55 rolls out.

When Chrome comes across a site that only offers Flash video users will have to click to enable it.

Why this matters: With this announcement, Google is providing more details about an announcement it made in May to make Chrome default to HTML5 by the end of the year. Once Chrome 55 rolls out, Google’s browser will only be using Flash when absolutely necessary, which will be a boon for battery life, browser responsiveness, and overall stability. Chrome’s changes to how it deals with Flash are similar to what Apple has planned for Safari. When macOS Sierra rolls out this fall, Safari 10 will also default to HTML5 by telling sites that the browser does not have Flash installed. On those sites that only offer Flash video, Safari will also allow users to activate it via click-to-play.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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