Security

Windows 10: Microsoft's Edge browser the latest to disable Flash by default

Next year will see Microsoft reduce Flash to being click-to-play in Edge, as part of a bid to improve the browser's security, stability and battery drain.

flashux.png

The click-to-play option that will be enabled by default for Flash-based content in Windows 10's Edge browser.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft will disable Adobe Flash by default in Windows 10's Edge browser, echoing a similar pledge made by other major browser makers.

The decision means that Internet Explorer will be the only widely-used browser to run Flash-powered animations and video out of the box.

While Adobe Flash has powered dynamic content on the web for decades, in recent years the reputation of the multimedia software platform has been tarnished by reports of security holes, crashes and poor performance.

SEE: Windows 10: The smart person's guide

As HTML5 technologies have provided an alternative way for websites to play video and animations, so the need for Flash has diminished. As a result, this year, moves have begun to disable the Adobe tech in Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari browsers.

Similar to these other browsers, Microsoft's plan is for the Edge browser to only play Flash content if the user clicks to trigger it, although users will be able to choose to have Flash always play on specific sites.

"The primary reason for this is because most of the exploits that currently exist are for Flash. In fact, new vulnerabilities are being discovered all the time," said Liviu Itoafa, security researcher, Kaspersky Lab, citing this recent example.

Not only are new security vulnerabilities frequently discovered in Flash, but the "majority" allow for remote code execution by hackers and are classified as being the highest possible risk under the Common Vulnerability Scoring System, he said.

The performance of Flash-driven web applications also tends "to be quite slow", he said, a factor that has driven large organizations such as Facebook to replace Flash with HTML5-powered content.

Security expert Graham Cluley welcomed the move by Microsoft and said the writing was on the wall for Flash.

"Anything which reduces users' exposure to Flash is good news from the security point of view. For too many years Flash has been used to spread malware attacks," he said.

"Hopefully, as more and more browsers reduce users' exposure to Flash, websites will reconsider their use of the technology.It's not a question of if Flash is dying, but rather when will it take its last breath."

For users "this change will provide all users improved performance, greater stability, and stronger security," Microsoft program managers for Edge said in a blog post.

The changes to Edge will be introduced as part of the Windows 10 Creators Update in Spring next year, but will be rolled out to Windows Insider test builds at an earlier date.

However, Microsoft says it will introduce the changes gradually, initially allowing Flash to continue running by default on the most popular websites, before disabling Flash on more and more sites.

Edge already doesn't play Flash content in certain ads and other content judged "not central to the page".

Microsoft advised web developers to move away from using Flash and to use alternate HTML5 technologies, recommending Encrypted Media Extensions, Media Source Extensions, Canvas, Web Audio, and RTC.

However, the importance of Microsoft joining with other browser makers and turning its back on Flash may not be as significant as it once would have been. By some estimates, Microsoft has been losing market share to competitors such as Google throughout the year, as users turn away from Internet Explorer and are slow to adopt Edge. That said the statistics that underpin these assessments of browser market share are open to interpretation.

More on Windows 10 and the web

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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