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Microsoft: The Web is better without plug-ins

Why ditch plug-ins such as Flash Player and Silverlight? Microsoft's list: Battery life, security, privacy, and support for mobile devices.

IE9 logo

Microsoft began distancing itself from browser plug-ins last year starting with Internet Explorer on Windows 8's Metro interface, but it spoke more definitively today: plug-ins are bad for the Web.

"Metro-style IE runs plug-in free to improve battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers," said John Hrvatin, Internet Explorer program manager lead, in a blog post. "A plug-in free Web benefits consumers and developers and we all take part in the transition."

The upcoming IE10 browser doesn't just run in Metro, Microsoft's next-generation, touch-centric interface geared for tablets and touch screens. It also can run in a classic Windows mode, and Hrvatin described some code that Web developers can drop into their Web sites so the Metro version of IE can show a one-touch button to switch to the classic Windows.

But programmers should try to avoid having to use it, Microsoft argues.

"The desktop browsing experience and most plug-ins were not designed for smaller screens, battery constraints, and no mouse," Hrvatin said. "Providing an easy way to the Windows desktop is the last resort when no comparable plug-in free fallback content exists."

The top browser plug-in is the embattled Adobe Systems' Flash Player: Apple bars it from Safari on its widely used iOS devices, and browser makers have been working on Web standards to catch up to Flash advantages with graphics, text, audio, Webcams, video, and more.

Flash Player logo

As a result of the pressure, Adobe has thrown much of its weight behind Web standards and abandoned an effort to spread Flash to Android and other mobile devices. It does, though, still see a role for Flash for games, premium video, and some other areas.

Another significant plug-in is Microsoft's own Silverlight. It never caught on as widely as Flash Player, though, and Microsoft, too has embraced Web standards as it reawakened its IE development effort after years of dormancy.