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Apple To Deactivate Flash in Next Version of Safari

Adobe’s Flash browser plug-in has been suffering a slow death by a thousand cuts, and today it learned of yet another. A blog post by a member of Apple’s Safari development team has revealed that the version of Safari due out this fall — Safari 10, set to ship with macOS Sierra — will arrive on users’ Macs with Flash deactivated by default.

The aging and vulnerable plug-in has received little love from browsers lately, with Mozilla announcing that its Firefox browser would block all versions of Flash by default, and Microsoft’s new Edge browser only displaying Flash content on sites in which Flash is a central component of the content.

No More Legacy Plug-Ins

Flash has long been a pet peeve of software and Web developers, thanks to its infamously bad track record of security vulnerabilities. Adobe has issued a number of emergency patches for the plug-in this year alone. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously refused to allow the plug-in to run on iOS devices, due to security concerns. So news that Apple is looking to excise the plug-in from its proprietary browser is hardly surprising.

The upcoming version of Safari will load HTML5 versions of content instead of the Flash version by default, when both types are found on a Web page, according to a guest post on the WebKit blog by Ricky Mondello, a member of Safari’s development team. The way this will work in practice is that Safari will no longer inform Web sites that a user visits that legacy plug-ins such as Flash, Java, Silverlight, and QuickTime are installed.

Historically, information about installed plug-ins has been stored in Safari’s navigator.plugins and navigator.mimeTypes files. Without that information, Web sites using both types of media will default to the HTML 5 implementation.

Flash Is Obsolete

But users will still be able to activate Flash if necessary. If a user visits a Web site that has Flash content but lacks an HTML 5 version of the same content, Safari will give that user the option of activating Flash either for the duration of the individual’s time on the site, or every time the user visits the site. However, the default option will be a one-time activation. Even in this case, though, the user’s permission for Flash to run will expire if Safari detects that the user has not visited the site in over a month.

The functionality provided by HTML 5 makes the Flash plug-in obsolete, according to Mondello. “The WebKit project in particular emphasizes security, performance, and battery life when evaluating and implementing Web standards,” Mondello said. “These standards now include most of the functionality needed to support rich media and interactive experiences that used to require legacy plug-ins like Adobe Flash.”

Instead of Flash, Mondello recommended that Web developers use technologies already included in HTML 5, e.g., the audio and video tags; WebGL for interactive content such as games; and CSS features for content such as animation, backdrop filters, and font feature settings.

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