Adobe, Browser Makers Pulling Plug on Flash by 2020
- By Kurt Mackie
- July 26, 2017
The Flash Player plug-in will be phased out by the end of 2020, according to its maker, Adobe, as well as a chorus of browser providers on Tuesday.
Flash is used for animations and video when browsing the Web. However, open Web standards such as "HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly" have matured as viable alternatives to Flash for browsers. Developers should use those technologies instead, Adobe explained in its announcement.
Adobe's support plans for Flash include providing security updates and adding "capabilities as needed," but all support for Flash will end after 2020. Flash's end will be accelerated in "certain geographies where unlicensed and outdated versions of Flash Player are being distributed," Adobe stated, without elaboration.
Browser makers Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla also offered their own comments about how Flash will get phased out of their products on Tuesday. Additionally, Facebook described its transition plans for developers who have created Facebook apps based on Flash.
Browser makers were years ahead of Adobe's announcement because Flash is seen as a general security problem. They've already initiated efforts to restrict Flash from running in browsers, except with user consent.
The current Google Chrome browser will block Flash and use HTML5 by default, while the current Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge browsers will make users request Flash activation before running it, as described in this Mozilla developer post. Flash is turned off by default for Apple's Safari browser. Apple hasn't added Flash to its iPhone and iPad hardware products since 2010, according to a WebKit blog post.
The browser makers each have specific phase-out plans for Flash before its 2020 end date.
On Microsoft's side, the Edge browser will continue to ask for permission to run Flash throughout this year and "into 2018." It'll ask once on the first visit. However, in "mid to late 2018," Edge will require permission each time to run Flash. Internet Explorer will run Flash without requiring permission throughout this time period. However, in "mid to late 2019," Microsoft will disable Flash by default in both Internet Explorer and Edge, and while users can reenable it, they'll have to provide permissions each time to use it. By the "end of 2020," Flash will be gone from all supported Windows versions and "users will no longer have any ability to enable or run Flash."
Mozilla has published a roadmap detailing its Flash support plans. It's disabling all plug-ins except Flash, starting next month. Firefox will save the user's Flash choice for sites, but Flash will be blocked on some sites. In September, Firefox for Android devices will drop all plug-in support. In the second half of next year, Firefox won't recognize the user's Flash choice, and users will have to grant permission to use Flash on every session. In early 2019, Firefox users will see warnings on Web sites about Flash use, which will happen a few months before Flash will get disabled by default in Firefox. It can still run using browser settings, though. However, in "early 2020," Flash will be removed from consumer Firefox versions, although an "extended support release" Firefox version will support Flash until the end of the year.
Google already supports HTML5 by default in its Chrome browser, but it also has a phase-out plan for Flash use. Users will be asked permission to run it. Later, Flash will be disabled by default. Flash will be removed completely "toward the end of 2020."
Facebook indicated it is working with its game-developer partners to shift development efforts from Flash to HTML5 and open Web standards. The first milestone for developers will be the summer of 2018, when the Chrome browser will require permission to run Flash (a so-called "click-to-play" option), according to Facebook's post.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.