As long as there’s been a modern Internet, there’s been Adobe Flash. And as long as there has been Adobe Flash, there have been webmaster and internet nerds who loathe it with every fiber of their being. So they’re celebrating that by the end of the year, Flash will effectively be banned from Google Chrome. But why is Google doing this, and what does it mean for you?
Adobe Flash is, at root, an animation program; back in the mid-’90s, it was created to build vector graphics and cartoons for web applications. Over time, it became more complex and feature-rich, allowing users to build programs inside Flash. These started as simple web games but have become more and more elaborate over time.
Unfortunately, it’s also meant that Flash is, by far, the easiest way for hackers to breach your computer and execute malicious code. In fact, Flash is probably the biggest security problem on the internet and it’s been criticized as such for nearly 20 years. The iPhone doesn’t allow Flash for precisely this reason. Facebook wants to phase it out entirely and older versions of the Flash player aren’t allowed to interact with modern browsers. The internet’s common language, HTML, was updated with a host of new features specifically designed to get rid of Flash.
It’s a credit to how persistent Flash is that Chrome can’t kill it entirely. But what it is doing is, aside from a handful of major websites, blocking Flash by default, although it will prompt you to enable Flash if you trust the site in question. That would seem a near-fatal blow, forcing websites to either update to HTML 5 or risk being functionally invisible to much of the Internet. Then again, Flash has outlived two different companies that have owned it and survived Apple rejecting it, so it’s hard to believe this might be the final straw
On a practical level, not much will likely change for your average internet user, aside from the fact that restaurants will finally update their websites. It will mean you run into a lot fewer security problems on Chrome. But because the future is full of fascinating new ways hackers can make your life miserable, you’ll likely be too preoccupied to notice.