When the modern World Wide Web first came to be in the mid 1990s, there was no such thing as a plug-in. The Web was a basic place, and function was more important than flashiness.
Times changed and so did developers’ preferences.
Soon, sites wanted to enhance the web experience beyond what HTML alone could provide, and Java, Flash, and other technologies were brought to the Web. Overall it worked as intended and made the Web more lively, but there were issues.
First off, plug-ins led to a more uneven browsing experience than issues surrounding how different browsers render pages ever did. If you didn’t have the plug-in or couldn’t install it, pages did not appear as intended. Look at devices that don’t support Flash (iOS, I’m talking about you): their users are locked out of a significant portion of the Web.
Moreover, these plug ins opened up our computers to additional security issues. Most security issues on the Web come as a result of the attacker making his or her way into your computer through an exploit found in a plug-in. Think about it: a significant number of major security flaws have been found here.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Microsoft is following Apple’s lead in moving away from Flash, and plug-ins generally. IE10 for Windows 8 will come in two flavors — one for Microsoft’s new Metro interface, and another for the desktop. Metro won’t support plug-ins and will instead support HTML5 as well as possible, says Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.
“Running Metro style IE plug-in free improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers,” he argues. “Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI.”
I have to applaud Microsoft here. Plug-ins, in this day and age, are outdated and unnecessary. Some have criticized Apple’s stance on this, but lets face it: modern Web technologies can provide nearly the same experience.
To me, the most attractive part of this switch is the additional security benefits. I’m hoping that this change spurs developers to wean themselves off of these unnecessary technologies, making the Web safer for all of us. Bad news for Adobe? Maybe, but hey even they are preparing for a life without Flash.