Steve Jobs was an early despiser of Adobe Flash plug-ins and their inherent issues with back doors into personal computers, servers and data centers. He saw them and other Web plug-ins as a resident security problem for anybody using the World Wide Web.
If Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer nearly five years ago, were here today, he would be smiling, because his legacy company announced plans June 15 at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference to disable plug-ins Flash, Sun-Oracle’s Java, Microsoft’s Silverlight and even Apple’s own QuickTime in Safari 10.
Flash is a closed, proprietary system on a Web that deserves open standards only. It’s a commonly used entryway for hackers, which puts users at risk constantly. In addition, Flash is a resource-heavy battery hog that finds most of its purpose powering pop-up ads people do not want to see anyway.
It was developed by Macromedia/Adobe Systems long ago, before we had the online security problems we have today.
Java, the open-source programming language used to create plug-ins, and most of the other commonly used plug-ins have had security issues, but not nearly to the extent of Flash.
The new version of the Apple browser will prioritize HTML5 to run ahead of other content types and ship with macOS Sierra, the latest version of Apple’s operating system, later this year.
Nonetheless, for sites that require a special plug-in, the plug-in can be activated with a single button-click, as can be done in Google Chrome. So Flash and the others still will have lives to lead, at least for the short term. But new browsers aren’t going to do them any favors.
The upcoming version of Safari no longer will indicate to sites that these plug-ins are installed, Safari developer Ricky Mondello wrote in a post on the WebKit blog. The browser has no built-in exception list, so users will have to enable plug-ins on an on-demand basis, he wrote.
“On Web sites that offer both Flash and HTML5 implementations of content, Safari users will now always experience the modern HTML5 implementation, delivering improved performance and battery life,” Mondello said. “This policy and its benefits apply equally to all sites; Safari has no built-in list of exceptions. If a Website really does require a legacy plug-in, users can explicitly activate it.”
Apple isn’t the only major Web application company with this type of policy. Google also is adopting a similar strategy to promote the use of HTML5 in its Chrome browser, making it the default content experience for all Web sites. Microsoft, too, is advocating HTML5 because it is more stable and offers a better environment for security.
Adobe Systems, the owner of Flash, has long been prepared for this eventuality and has begun offering tools to develop HTML5 content while continuing to support Flash.