Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Unplugging the Web - The case of the disappearing Browser Plug-ins (and why that's a good thing)

How-to Geek - Why Browser Plug-Ins Are Going Away and What’s Replacing Them


Browser plug-ins are on their way out. Apple’s iOS has never supported plug-ins, Flash is long-discontinued for Android, and the new version of IE for Windows 8 doesn’t support most plug-ins. Chrome will soon be blocking traditional NPAPI browser plug-ins.

The web isn’t going in reverse and losing features. There’s a good reason browser plug-ins are going away, and the web will be better once they’re gone. Browser developers are integrating plug-in features into browsers themselves.

Note that this doesn’t apply to extensions or add-ons, only plug-ins that run on websites like Flash, Silverlight, and the terribly insecure Java plug-in.

Why Browser Plug-ins Were Created


Why Browser Plug-ins Are Bad

Browser plug-ins have proven to be a problem for the web. Here are some of the biggest problems with them:


What’s Replacing Browser Plug-ins


The Chromium Blog - Saying Goodbye to Our Old Friend NPAPI

...Chrome will be phasing out NPAPI support over the coming year.

We feel the web is ready for this transition. NPAPI isn’t supported on mobile devices, and Mozilla plans to make all plug-ins except the current version of Flash click-to-play by default. Based on anonymous Chrome usage data, we estimate that only six NPAPI plug-ins were used by more than 5% of users in the last month. Still, we appreciate that it will take time to transition away from NPAPI, so we will be rolling out this change in stages.

Starting in January 2014, Chrome will block webpage-instantiated NPAPI plug-ins by default on the Stable channel. To avoid disruption to users, we will temporarily whitelist the most popular NPAPI plug-ins that are not already blocked for security reasons. These are:

  1. Silverlight (launched by 15% of Chrome users last month [GD:This was posted in September, so this doesn't mean last month last month] )
  2. Unity (9.1%)
  3. Google Earth (9.1%)
  4. Java (8.9%) *
  5. Google Talk (8.7%)
  6. Facebook Video (6.0%)

* Already blocked by default for security reasons.

In the short term, end users and enterprise administrators will be able to whitelist specific plug-ins. Eventually, however, NPAPI support will be completely removed from Chrome. We expect this to happen before the end of 2014, but the exact timing will depend on usage and user feedback. Note that the built-in Flash plug-in and PDF viewer will be unaffected because they don’t use NPAPI.


Plug-ins have always been a pain, a security hole and a development nightmare. Good riddens!

But I had to laugh that one of Google's own products is still using it. Also the Silverlight numbers were very interesting too.

No comments: