Microsoft Makes Flash Click-to-Play in Edge Browser Update

A break from Internet Explorer's past, indeed. This summer, Microsoft is putting users in control of Flash content on Web pages.

Microsoft Edge update

Edge, Internet Explorer's successor, is the default Web browser that ships with Windows 10. And with the upcoming highly anticipated Anniversary Update for the operating system (OS), Microsoft is making it so that unsuspecting users no longer have to scramble for their volume controls when they land on a Web page with auto-playing Adobe Flash ads.

A recently released preview build of the OS includes an update to the Edge browser aimed at giving users more control over Flash's impact on PC performance, according to John Hazen, principal program manager lead for Microsoft Edge.

"Peripheral content like animations or advertisements built with Flash will be displayed in a paused state unless the user explicitly clicks to play that content," said Hazen in an April 4 announcement. "This significantly reduces power consumption and improves performance while preserving the full fidelity of the page."

There are exceptions, noted Hazen. If Flash "is central to the page," as is often the case with video streaming and Web games, the content will not be paused.

While Adobe Flash helped popularize interactive content and media streaming on the Web, the technology is past its prime, Hazen said. Modern Web standards like HTML5 have outpaced Flash, providing better experiences with lower penalties on computer processors, system memory and battery life, he added.

In curtailing Flash on its Edge browser, Microsoft is following in the footsteps of Google and Mozilla.

Last June, Google similarly announced a feature that paused peripheral Flash content in Chrome by default. "This update significantly reduces power consumption, allowing you to surf the Web longer before having to hunt for a power outlet," Tommy Li, a Google software engineer, wrote in a blog post.

Separately, the software giant, which also operates a massive online advertising business, said last June that it would stop accepting Flash ads on its AdWords and DoubleClick Digital Marketing platforms in January 2017. Only HTML5-based ads will be allowed after the Jan. 2 deadline.

Last summer, after a string of zero-day vulnerabilities affecting Adobe's Flash Player, Mozilla outright blocked Flash in its Firefox browser. Today, users can activate "click to play" functionality for Flash content, but Mozilla still urges caution. "Allow Flash only for trusted Websites and content providers. Avoid activating Flash for ads or third-party content, or on sites you don't trust," advised the browser maker in an online support document.

Microsoft plans to release more ways for users to control Flash content, even if it's central to the experience, Hazen said. The company will also be monitoring Flash's prevalence on the Web, he said.

Like Mozilla and Google before it, Microsoft is ready to move on from Adobe Flash, Hazen said. "We are planning for and look forward to a future where Flash is no longer necessary as a default experience in Microsoft Edge."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...