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Mozilla Firefox will Block Flash Content To Save Battery And Boost Security

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Curtains for Flash? Next month Firefox will block certain Flash content deemed “not essential to the user experience”

The demise of Adobe’s Flash technology has moved another step closer with the news that Mozilla will from next month begin blocking “certain Flash content that is not essential to the user experience” in its Firefox browser.

Mozilla also said that while it would still support legacy Flash content, it has made clear its intention to gradually replace Flash altogether “over time” with HTML.

Reducing Flash

mozilla-firefox-posterMozilla made the announcement in a blog posting by Benjamin Smedberg, manager of Firefox quality engineering at Mozilla.

He explained that the decision was made because plugins often introduce stability, performance, and security issues for browsers.

“Mozilla and the Web as a whole have been taking steps to reduce the need for Flash content in everyday browsing,” wrote Smedberg. “Starting in August, Firefox will block certain Flash content that is not essential to the user experience, while continuing to support legacy Flash content. These and future changes will bring Firefox users enhanced security, improved battery life, faster page load, and better browser responsiveness.”

HTML5 Focus

He explained how Firefox has over the past few years implemented Web APIs to replace functionality that was formerly provided only by plugins. He said that as websites have switched from Flash to other web technologies, the plugin crash rate in Firefox has dropped significantly.

“Firefox will continue this trend by blocking specific Flash content invisible to users,” he said. “This is expected to reduce Flash crashes and hangs by up to 10 percent. To minimize website compatibility problems, the changes are initially limited to a short, curated list of Flash content that can be replaced with HTML. We intend to add to this list over time.”

He said that later this year Mozilla will expand this list to include the use of Flash to check content viewability, and that in 2017, Firefox will require click-to-activate approval from users before a website activates the Flash plugin for any content.

“Websites that currently use Flash or Silverlight for video or games should plan on adopting HTML technologies as soon as possible,” Smedberg warned. “Firefox currently supports encrypted video playback using Adobe Primetime and Google Widevine as alternatives to plugin video.”

“We continue to work closely with Adobe to deliver the best possible Flash experience for our users,” he added. “These changes are part of our ongoing efforts to make browsing safer and faster without sacrificing the Web experiences our users love.”

This is not the first time that Mozilla has warned about Flash. This time last year Mozilla blocked Adobe Flash by default in its Firefox browser following the discovery of more zero-day vulnerabilities in the browser plug-in. That block remained in place until Adobe rushed out a patch for the flaw.

Protracted Death

Occupy FlashAdobe has been struggling with Flash for a number of years now. Initially Flash achieved widespread support as it allowed for multimedia content, animations and games to be integrated into Web pages.

But it has also had its problems, not least of which is the fact that it faces ongoing security issues, and many experts feel it presents an unnecessary security risk when web browsing.

Adobe’s Flash was also hated by the late Steve Jobs as well, after the former Apple CEO famously called it a doomed technology.

Indeed, such was Jobs opposition to Flash that he publicly attacked it again in April 2010, which prompted a public spat with Adobe’s CEO, Shantanu Narayen.

The bad blood between Apple and Adobe continued for some time, not helped by an Adobe ad campaign that blasted Apple for its closed approach regarding developer licensing.

In the end however, Adobe does have an issue with Flash, as there continues to be huge amount of Flash content out there, and therefore it has to keep its Flash Player as stable and secure as possible.

But Adobe itself acknowledged the inevitability of an HTML5 world last December, and is now “encouraging” developers and content creators away from Flash, in order to use newer web standards.

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