Oracle is retiring the much-maligned Java plugin for browsers after admitting the writing is on the wall for such proprietary technologies as the likes of Chrome and Firefox remove support for Java, Flash, Silverlight and others.

The company says the process will start with the release of the next Java development kit. The plugin will still be available for a while before it is completely killed off but it will not be promoted.

Oracle suggests application developers migrate to alternatives, such as its own plugin free technology.

RIP Java plugin

“With modern browser vendors working to restrict and reduce plugin support in their products, developers of applications that rely on the Java browser plugin need to consider alternative options such as migrating from Java Applets (which rely on a browser plugin) to the plugin-free Java Web Start technology,” said Oracle.

“Oracle plans to deprecate the Java browser plugin in JDK 9. This technology will be removed from the Oracle JDK and JRE in a future Java SE release.”

The Java plugin has long been a target for hackers who use vulnerabilities in the software to infect computers with malware. Experts accept that the number of flaws has fallen in recent years, but the move towards smartphones and open technologies like HTML5 has spelt the death knell for Java and other plugins.

Changing times

“To be honest, the Java plugin’s days have been numbered for some time – with the rise of smartphone usage, and the way most modern browsers are reducing support for plugins,” said security researcher Graham Cluley. “In short, the browser manufacturers – in their quest for greater security and stability – were making the Java plugin irrelevant, regardless of Oracle’s plans for their software.

“Oracle isn’t the only company having to recognise that the world is changing. Adobe, developers of the often-attacked Flash plugin, recently made clear that it was moving away from the platform to an HTML5-based future.”

Adobe confirmed late last year it was going to evolve Flash, which has been subject to countless vulnerabilities, to support multiple, open standards.

Flash’s popularity can be attributed to its ability to support multimedia content, animations and games in a webpage. However technologies like HTML5 have matured in recent years, meaning the security risks have become increasingly intolerable, while the power and data required to run Flash is unattractive to smartphone users restricted by battery life and data limits.

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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