Mozilla is backing off its support for Adobe's Flash technology in its Firefox browser, the latest slash in Flash's death by a thousand cuts.
Instead of dropping Flash right away, the open source development organisation will reduce its support for Flash in stages. Sometime next year, Mozilla plans to have Firefox block Flash videos and games by default, requiring users who want to view or play them to click on them to activate them.
"Browser plugins, especially Flash, have enabled some of our favorite experiences on the Web, including videos and interactive content," Benjamin Smedberg, manager of Firefox quality engineering at Mozilla, said in a blog post recently.
"But plugins often introduce stability, performance, and security issues for browsers. This is not a trade-off users should have to accept."
Next month, Firefox will start blocking a limited amount of Flash files, mostly those that are used for things like web site usage that are invisible to computer users. Later in the year, Mozilla will expand that list to include Flash files used to detect whether consumers view particular web advertisements.
When it starts blocking Flash videos and games next year, Mozilla will encourage developers to use in their place technologies built on HTML, which is the underlying language of the Web. At the same time it starts blocking Flash videos and games, Firefox will also block those made using Microsoft's Silverlight technology.
Mozilla estimates that just the first stage of its move away from Flash – the blocking of the invisible tracking files – should reduce Flash-related crashes by 10%, Smedberg said in his post.
"These changes are part of our ongoing efforts to make browsing safer and faster without sacrificing the web experiences our users love," he said.
Mozilla joins a growing number of major web companies that are distancing themselves from Flash.
Google announced in May that it will block Flash in its Chrome browser on most websites by the end of this year. Last year, both YouTube and Facebook switched their default video players from Flash to HTML. And late last year, Adobe itself announced that it was refocusing its software used to create animations and videos away from Flash and toward HTML technologies.
But the move away from Flash arguably dates back to 2007 when Apple declined to support the technology in the original iPhone, promoting web technologies instead. Although Adobe initially tried to push Flash on mobile devices, it abandoned that effort in 2011, leaving it without a presence in the fastest growing and now largest platform for web consumption.
Flash was widely used in the early days of the Web as a way to add multimedia to static pages. But the technology has been the source of a growing number of security holes in recent years, many of them serious. It's also been the source of many stability and memory problems in browsers. — The Mercury News/Tribune News Service