Adobe Flash will die by 2020, Adobe and browser makers say

Now, about Java...

Adobe Flash, one of the most controversial elements of the web, will be phased out by 2020, Adobe said Tuesday. Browser makers, including Microsoft and Google, simultaneously announced plans for a gradual phaseout over the next few years.

Adobe said that enough progress had been made within open web standards like HTML5 that it was time to phase out Flash. "Adobe and Macromedia provided innovation to the web, through browser plug-ins, before the underlying web standards could support the interactivity and creativity our digital media publishers and consumers craved," the company said in a blog post. "By the end of 2020, we firmly believe that all of these required media capabilities and standards will be widely deployed and natively available to customers within browsers."

Specifically, Adobe Flash will be end-of-lifed by 2020, the company said, meaning that it simply won't work. That will have dramatic effects on sites like Newgrounds, which evolved into a repository for Flash-authored (and HTML5) content. For many, though, Flash was simply seen at least as a nuisance, and at worst a serious security risk. 

Flash-based exploits have circulated for years, in a game of cat-and-mouse between hackers and Adobe itself. In 2015, for example, hackers jumped on a Flash exploit as an opportunity to infect computers with malware. In response, Mozilla’s Firefox blocked Flash by default until Adobe issued a patch. Security issues aside, PCWorld also found that Flash slowed down browsers by as much as 80 percent.

Over time, browser makers either began blocking Flash by default or at least asking users to enable it, a feature known as click-to-run. Today, sites need to ask your permission to run Flash within Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. (Edge remembers your choice for future visits.)

Browser makers act fast

In a blog post, Microsoft laid out its timeline for phasing out Flash support from Edge:

  • Through the end of 2017 and into 2018, Microsoft Edge will continue to ask users for permission to run Flash on most sites the first time the site is visited, and will remember the user’s preference on subsequent visits. Internet Explorer will continue to allow Flash with no special permissions required during this time.
  • In mid to late 2018, Microsoft will update Microsoft Edge to require permission for Flash to be run each session. Internet Explorer will continue to allow Flash for all sites in 2018.
  • In mid to late 2019, Microsoft will disable Flash by default in both Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer. Users will be able to re-enable Flash in both browsers. When re-enabled, Microsoft Edge will continue to require approval for Flash on a site-by-site basis.
  • By the end of 2020, Microsoft will remove the ability to run Adobe Flash in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer across all supported versions of Microsoft Windows. Users will no longer have any ability to enable or run Flash.

Google said that it will quietly phase out Flash as well, though the process will go on quietly behind the scenes. "If the site migrates to open web standards, you shouldn’t notice much difference except that you'll no longer see prompts to run Flash on that site," Google said in a blog post by Anthony Laforge, a product manager with Google Chrome. "If the site continues to use Flash, and you give the site permission to run Flash, it will work through the end of 2020."

What this means for you: Little, if anything. Browser makers are bending over backwards to ensure that your browser encounters as little Flash as possible before it's phased out in 2020. Flash had its day, but its time has come. 

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Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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