Google is promising better battery life on laptops by blocking Flash with a future Chrome update. What does this mean for us?
What is Adobe Flash?
Adobe Flash has gone through many iterations in its time. It was first called Macromedia Flash Player, then Shockwave Flash. Essentially, Flash is a multimedia software platform. Currently, Flash is mostly used for browser-based games, video playback and interactive web applications.
Flash has also seen its fair share of criticisms over the years. Adobe has never released the full source code for its Flash Player software with a reusable license, so future modifications and implementations have to come from Adobe. Usually, open-source (where the source code is public) software can be modified by the public to suit their needs, while large improvements can be baked back into the original source code.
Because Flash's existence depended on Adobe, many were unhappy with the idea of one single company having absolute control. Mobile operating system developers decided to drop Flash in favor of HTML5 - the global standard for presenting content on the World Wide Web. Therefore, websites and applications built using Flash will not work on devices running Android or iOS.
Another issue is performance, especially in Flash games or video playback. Flash uses much more of your computer's resources than alternative multimedia solutions, such as HTML5. Playing older versions of Flash content can lead to a huge increase in RAM and CPU usage, sometimes bottlenecking a computer until the Flash content is closed or Flash has crashed (we're looking at you, Facebook).
The largest problem with Flash, however, has always been security. Adobe Flash Player has many vulnerabilities, leading to constant Flash security updates. Because of the constant update prompts, malware and spyware was often disguised as a Flash Player installation prompt. Malware was also commonly disguised as the Flash Player asking for permission to be used.
A world without Flash
While Flash lets you easily create rich, engaging content, there are much better alternatives. Mobile devices have already ditched Flash in favor of more efficient multimedia solutions. Now Chrome is taking the first definitive step into killing Flash on the web.
As outlined in Google's recent blog post, a new update will let Chrome intelligently "pause" Flash content that isn't crucial to the function of the webpage. You'll still be able to resume anything that Chrome has paused by simply clicking on it. If a Flash video is the focus of the webpage, for example, Chrome will allow it to play normally.
While Google is pushing this update as a method of saving battery life, there are many more benefits to blocking Flash. By making your computer work less, you'll reduce the wear and tear in internal components as well as generate less heat - also contributing to longer component life. Your machine will run cooler, quieter, longer and faster without Flash.