Windows 8 update: The end of Adobe Flash?

Microsoft says it will rely on HTML5 for the Metro-style interface of Internet Explorer 10.

Microsoft appears to be taking a page out of Apple's play book saying it will dump plug-ins such as Adobe Flash from Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8. Well, sort of.

You'll still be able to view content requiring plug-ins in Windows 8, but you'll have to switch to the old fashioned Windows desktop to see it. Users who prefer to remain in the touch-centric, Metro-style interface, however, will have a plug-in free (and presumably Flash-free) experience. Instead, the new touch-centric IE 10 will rely on HTML5 technologies for online video and other functions.

"For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free," said Dean Hachamovtich, who leads Microsoft's Internet Explorer team. "The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web."

The good news is that thanks to Apple's anti-Flash trailblazing with the iPhone and iPad, many websites now offer HTML5 video when the Flash plug-in is not present. YouTube, for example, will still run without Flash as will many other video sites.

Why the Shift?

Microsoft said it examined the plug-in requirements for the top 97,000 sites worldwide and discovered that 62 percent can already offer HTML5 video to non-Flash devices. Many of these sites can also serve non-Flash ads as well.

If you visit a site that still relies on ActiveX controls or other plug-in content, you will be prompted to tap a "Use Desktop View" notification. This will take you to the traditional desktop where you can view the content requiring a plug-in.

What Microsoft didn't mention is where this leaves the company's own Flash competitor, Silverlight. Will Silverlight compatibility be built into the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 or is Silverlight on the Web gone too? The technology still has a life as a tool for developers, so Silverlight on the Web may not be a big loss for the Windows maker. Microsoft was unavailable for comment at the time of this writing.

What About Add-Ons?

There's also the question of whether Metro-style IE 10 will support add-ons (also known as extensions) or toolbars. Microsoft wasn't clear on this point. "In Windows 8, IE 10 is available as a Metro style app and as a desktop app," said Steven Sinofksy, president of Windows and Windows Live, on the Building Windows 8 blog. "The desktop app continues to fully support all plug-ins and extensions." Sinofsky didn't explicitly say that extensions won't be supported in the Metro interface, but his comments do suggest that extensions are out for Metro-style IE 10.

Admittedly, a lot of these add-ons wouldn't be missed (especially toolbars packaged with other downloads), and IE was never big on add-ons compared to competing browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. But some extensions might be missed in the touchable version of IE 10 such as identity managers that help you save passwords and automatically fill out Web forms.

Nevertheless, the lack of plug-ins and possibly extensions should make IE more responsive and faster when using the Metro UI.

This could also be a huge blow to Adobe since the Metro-style interface will be the first thing home users see when they fire up Windows 8 on their laptops and desktops. It's possible that Microsoft could adopt Google's strategy and build Flash right into IE, but that would technically be using a plug-in and thus not be as plug-in free as Microsoft is promising.

Microsoft's comments, while they don't explicitly say this, suggest that Flash will not be included in the Metro-style version of Windows 8. So unless PC users at home reject the Metro-style interface and stick with the traditional desktop in Windows 8 or Windows 7, Microsoft may effectively finish what Apple started and kill Flash on the Web.

Adobe was unavailable for comment at the time of this writing.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleWindows 8applicationsMicrosoftbrowserssoftwareInternet Exploreryoutube

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?