Google Chrome to Integrate Flash

By  |  Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

What if Flash felt less like a browser plugin and more like a browser feature? Google and Adobe intend to try and answer that question. They’ve announced that future versions of the Chrome browser will come with an integrated version of Flash. Download Chrome, and you’ll get a preinstalled, ready-to-go copy of Flash; update Chrome, and you’ll get any available Flash updates.

I know that some folks reading this post will have an instinctive negative reaction to this idea–there are definitely those who dislike Flash enough that they want nothing to do with it. But ardent Flash avoiders are a tiny minority, judging from the fact that the vast majority of the world’s PCs and Macs have Flash installed. (They’ll be able to disable the preinstalled Flash if they want.)

Conceptually, I like the idea–but only if it makes Flash more or less transparent. Over the years, I’ve wasted a fair amount of time reinstalling and updating Flash, dealing with odd errors (like demands for more storage), and recovering from Flash crashes. If the integrated version results in a Flash that’s just there, it’ll be a good thing. And it would help make Flash more palatable in a world in which it’ll compete with open, browser-native HTML5 technologies–which is presumably part of the idea.

In related news, both Adobe and Google are working with Mozilla and other players in the browser community to build a new API for plugins–one which will allow for better integration than existing techniques. Again, good idea if it helps us forget we’re running plugins at all…


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Steven Fisher Says:

    I’m not convinced this is even a good idea in theory, let alone how it will work out in practice.

    One way of viewing this is that Flash is a mass of insecure code handled by a company that’s very incompetent in the way of security. It’s held at arm’s length by the browser, through a connection that is not of great quality and probably has security issues of its own. So instead, we’ll remove that flaky and leaky connection, and integrate the mass of crap code more tightly into the browser.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong: There’s some positives here. But I’m unclear what the net impact is, other than I’ve still got Flash running in code written by incompetent, ignorant morons.

  2. Steven Fisher Says:

    I wrote the above before I read this little gem: “Improving the traditional browser plug-in model will make it possible for plug-ins to be just as fast, stable, and secure as the browser’s HTML and JavaScript engines.”

    Right. Because the only problem with Flash is the bridge between it and the browser. It clearly has nothing to do with Adobe’s engineers being idiots who shouldn’t be let anywhere razor blades or C compilers.

    Acknowledging the positives of this is one thing, but a denial of the other side of the situation is a very, very ill omen.

  3. adminn Says:

    Don’t forget that flash is now run within the google chrome sandbox (which has had not been exploited in the real world yet). Previous security issues (most by webkit) were all run outside the sandbox.

  4. IcyFog Says:

    Hmmm … well that sucks. I hope there’s a way to block Flash.

  5. Steven Fisher Says:

    A chain is only as weak as its weakest link, so it’s made no sense to attack the google chrome sandbox. It’s also been a relatively worthless target, as there’s been no way to attempt to attack it.

    This changes that.

  6. GiddyUpGo Says:

    I have for a long time refused to load Adobe Flash on my computer. I do not have it, nor will have it on my computer. I just move on if a site requires it. Chrome will not be used either if they install this.
    I am no newbe. I have used computers before windows…back when you had a 2k machine working in basics. Adobe has proven to be security risk that I no longer will take part in.

  7. Henson S. Says:

    Maybe this is just an April Fool’s Day joke?

    If so, it would be a great one.

  8. tom b Says:

    “Maybe this is just an April Fool’s Day joke?”

    I sure hope so. I have no need for Chrome (Safari is faster and Firefox has more features), but I’d hate to see Google doing deals with Adobe at the expense of their users.

  9. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    The problem isn’t really FlashPlayer itself. The problem is publishers who don’t understand that browser plug-ins are not universal, they are always optional, you’re not supposed to put essential content in there. You can enhance a page with them (this is even part of the HTML5 spec) but you cannot replace the page’s content with them and leave an empty space or page or an error message for users who don’t have the plug-in. There has never been a universal plug-in. Even if you just look at FlashPlayer, there are multiple versions and it’s only ever run on Mac/PC. There’s no FlashPlayer for any mobile, it’s not just the iPhone OS that does not have it. And these days, with all the security flaws and how much FlashPlayer drains your battery, a surprising number of Mac/PC have Flash disabled, especially portables.

    Some people questioned why Steve Jobs would show the NY Times home page at the iPad introduction, since the page showed a blue lego instead of FlashPlayer. The reason is that he was not highlighting a flaw in iPad, but rather a flaw in the NY Times. There is no excuse for the NY Times showing a blue lego to users. That is some unprofessional BS right there. I was embarrassed for the Web development team at the NY Times. 3 years earlier, Steve Jobs showed the same NY Times home page on iPhone. In that whole 3 years, with the rise of the desktop class browser on smartphones, the NY Times didn’t figure out that a chunk of their page being Mac/PC only was unacceptable? Again, we’re not just talking about iPhone, but about every mobile, there is no FlashPlayer on any of them.

    The weird thing with this announcement, though, is that Chrome OS was supposed to be faster and more efficient and mobile-friendly and get long battery life. Leaving the cruft behind was a big part of the idea. That’s not the case if you’re running FlashPlayer. So it seems marketing-driven to me. But by the time Chrome OS ships, there will be much less Flash on the Web, anyway. In Web development the most common conversation about Flash is “the CEO can’t see [all or part of] the Web site on his mobile so the Flash has got to go.” Ironically, if the Flash had been put into the site properly so that it was optional, the CEO would not be saying to pull it out of the site entirely.

    Publishers have to be 100% mobile-compatible today. There are 5 mobiles for every Mac/PC, and there are Web browsers on game consoles and other devices. FlashPlayer is only on about 15% of the devices that have Web browsers.