Chrome to begin blocking Flash on websites

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Chrome to begin blocking Flash on websites

Google is making a major update to its web browser. We examine the implications for business websites.

Chrome has more than 50 percent of the global web browser market, according to research firm NetMarketShare. So Google’s announcement that its browser will start blocking some Flash content will have a significant impact on many business websites.

As of next month (September), Chrome will begin blocking what Google describes as ‘non-content’ use of Flash in websites.

The update will mean critical features of many business websites, in particular ad services and page analytics, will soon no longer work when visitors use the Chrome web browser.

While Adobe's Flash technology has been used for many years to deliver animated, interactive and video content within web pages, it has had more than its share of problems. The trend away from Flash was largely fuelled by its absence from iPhones and iPads.

Even where it is supported, Flash content is relatively heavy in terms of the amount of data that needs to be downloaded and the CPU power (and hence battery consumption on notebooks) required to play it.

In addition, a steady stream of vulnerabilities has also led some people to remove Flash from their systems, although Chrome has its own private copy of Flash that is accessed in a way that is said to make it harder to exploit Flash's vulnerabilities.

Since last September, Chrome has worked to conserve power by automatically pausing Flash content that it deems 'unimportant' to the page. The rule of thumb adopted was that unimportant content came from a server other than the one delivering the page itself, and that was either less than 400 pixels wide or 300 pixels high.

Chrome version 53, to be released next month (September 2016), will go a step further by eliminating an exception which – for technical reasons – allowed Flash content to run if it was either very small or of undefined size. These items are generally used for background purposes such as collecting data for page analytics.

Businesses should to talk to whoever designed and manages their website to ensure this change won't have a negative impact.

Looking further ahead, Google has also announced that Chrome 55 – scheduled for release in December – will prioritise HTML5 content over Flash. Exceptions will be made for sites which only support Flash, but users will have to enable Flash the first time they visit each site.

Similar changes are being made in Firefox and Safari. Like Chrome, Windows 10's Edge browser already blocks Flash content unless it is central to a page.

The bottom line is if your website still uses Flash, it's time to ask why.

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