Google to build Flash into Chrome browser

Google's browser will include Flash and update it automatically. In addition, Google is working with Adobe and Mozilla to improve plug-in technology overall.

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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Google Chrome

Apple might be taking a principled stand against Adobe Systems' Flash Player plug-in, but Google opted for pragmatism by choosing to build the plug-in into its Chrome browser.

Google announced its Flash embrace Tuesday on its Chromium blog, but the company has been agitating for months on a related project to improve the security of browser plug-ins. Google wants the Web to be the foundation for applications, but it doesn't want the security and crash problems plug-ins can bring.

Specifically, Google said it will distribute Flash with Chrome, update it automatically, and eventually put Flash in Chrome's sandbox where its risks can be contained better.

The move isn't entirely a surprise. First, it had been reported Monday by ZDNet's Larry Dignan. But even last July, Google revealed that Adobe is one of Google's partners for Chrome OS, the browser-based operating system the company plans to release later this year. That virtually guaranteed Flash a place in Chrome OS.

What the move does indicate is that the separation between Flash and new features coming to HTML and related Web standards isn't quite as black and white as some would suppose. It's true that HTML, CSS, and JavaScript pose a competitive threat to Flash, but it's also true that there is a huge quantity of Flash content available on the Web. And note also that Adobe is adopting next-generation Web standards, too.

"Improving the traditional browser plug-in model will make it possible for plug-ins to be just as fast, stable, and secure as the browser's HTML and JavaScript engines. Over time this will enable HTML, Flash, and other plug-ins to be used together more seamlessly in rendering and scripting," said Linus Upson, a Google vice president of engineering, said on the blog posting.

Paul Betlem, Adobe's senior director for Flash Player engineering, was reading from the same script. "Our hope is that the robust integration between Chrome and Flash Player will serve as a showcase for more consistent, seamless, and efficient Web browsing experiences," he said in an Adobe blog post.

Another interesting wrinkle here is work to overhaul NPAPI, which stands for Netscape Plug-in Application Programming Interface but which is used by several browsers. Last July, Google proposed a project called the platform-independent NPAPI. On Tuesday, Google announced it's won the support of Adobe and Firefox developer Mozilla in developing the technology.

The reason it's interesting is that one reason Google wants the changes is to let its Native Client technology use Flash or other plug-ins. Native Client is a programming foundation to give a hardware acceleration boost to Web applications, and Google is building it into Chrome and Chrome OS. A smooth handoff to Flash could be important for the cases in which Web developers want to use Native Client power but Flash's interface.

The overall direction here, then, is clear: three allies are working to make Web-based applications a more powerful alternative to those that run on computer operating systems today.