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Apple to neutralize Adobe Flash in next version of Safari

It's the new default for an old technology. You'll be asked if you want to turn on the Flash plug-in for websites that may still require it.

Apple wants its Safari users to move away from Flash.
Adobe Systems

Apple is stepping up its fight to rid the world of Adobe Flash.

Apple's Safari 10 browser, which will ship with MacOS Sierra later this year, will deactivate Flash by default. Instead it will favor the newer HTML5 technology that has been gaining traction on websites for delivering interactive content.

If you encounter a site that can use either Flash or HTML5, the browser will choose the latter, Apple software engineer Ricky Mondello said in a blog post published Tuesday.

If the page is limited to using Flash, Safari will ask if you'd like to enable Adobe's plug-in. You can opt to do so, either just that once (the default) or anytime that website is visited.

For years, Flash has been nearly inescapable on the internet, an essential tool for running games, powering graphics and streaming media inside web browsers. For almost as long, it's been heavily criticized for its many security vulnerabilities and the toll it takes on phone batteries.

Apple championed the battle against Flash by banning the plug-in from its iOS software and its mobile devices. Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have also done their bit to banish Flash. Along the way, website developers began turning to HTML5 to create animations, videos and other types of multimedia content.

Microsoft's Windows 10 Edge browser automatically pauses Flash content not central to a webpage. Google's Chrome browser will block Flash on virtually all websites. And Mozilla's Firefox blocks any old and potentially unsecure version of Flash and offers a "click to play" option that requires you to manually activate Flash should you need it.

The new version of Safari will act as if Flash is not even installed on the Mac. This tells websites that accept both Flash and HTML5 to use the latter. The new policy will apply equally to all websites -- no exceptions, according to Mondello.

The newest standards include "most of the functionality needed to support rich media and interactive experiences that used to require legacy plug-ins like Adobe Flash," Mondello said. The Webkit browser engine used by Apple for Safari "emphasizes security, performance and battery life."

Flash isn't the only plug-in on Apple's hit list. Java, Silverlight and even Apple's own QuickTime will be given the same treatment in favor of HTML5.