December 19, 2016


Google last week released Chrome 55, but contrary to reports the browser has not yet begun to block content rendered by Adobe’s Flash Player.

In August, Google laid out steps it would take to retreat from Flash. As of Chrome 55, only Flash content on 10 sites, including Amazon, Facebook and YouTube, was supposed to display — and then only after an acknowledgement by the user. For all other sites, Chrome 55 was to render HTML5 content, if it was available, but not that for Flash.

Although several technology news sites and blogs said Chrome 55 wasblocking Flash content, Computerworld‘s tests on both Windows 10 and macOS showed that the browser did not restrict what’s rendered by Flash.

Some users writing on online forums, including Slashdot, also reported no change in Flash content rendering with Chrome 55.

Like other browser makers — including Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla — Google has argued that the elimination of Adobe’s once-dominant media player will result in longer laptop battery life, faster page rendering and improved security.

Apple’s Safari beat Chrome to the no-Flash milestone when it shipped Safari 10 with macOS Sierra in September; Safari defaults to HTML5 and alerts users of a Flash-only website with a message that they need to download or activate the plug-in. Microsoft’s Edge — Windows 10’s default browser — blocked some Flash content in the version bundled with the summer’s Anniversary Update. And Mozilla plans to require Firefox users to manually activate Flash Player at some point next year.

But Google’s move on Flash was of more significance than the similar decisions by rivals: Chrome is the world’s most popular browser, accounting for 56% of all browsers run in November by the reckoning of metrics vendor Net Applications.

Although Google did not flip the Flash switch with Chrome 55, the update did add options to the macOS browser’s Preferences page that hint the company could bar Flash content in a future refresh.

Under the advanced setting of Preferences, clicking the “Content settings” button under “Privacy” revealed “Flash” as one of several options: Chrome 55 offered three, including the new “Block sites from running Flash.” That was not the default; “Detect and run important Flash content (recommended)” was instead.

Google could begin blocking Flash by changing the default with a minor update.

The Mountain View, Calif. company did not reply to questions Monday about Chrome 55 and its Flash strategy.

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