Mozilla's Firefox to turn off Adobe Flash by default in 2017

Starting next year, Firefox users will have to click on a webpage to activate the Flash plug-in.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Firefox maker Mozilla is clamping down harder on Flash.

Adobe Systems

Firefox parent Mozilla is taking its battle against Adobe Flash a few steps further.

In 2017, Firefox will require "click-to-activate approval" from you before you can trigger Flash-enabled videos and other Flash content on a website, Mozilla engineering manager Benjamin Smedberg said Wednesday in a blog post. This means the Flash content will remain dormant unless you actively click on a link or icon that says: "Activate Adobe Flash."

You can currently do the same thing yourself in Firefox by manually setting Flash to "Ask to activate." But next year's move will be dramatic due to the new default status for all Firefox users.

Adobe Flash has long been a necessary feature that enables web developers to offer games, video and streaming media via web browsers. But the Flash plug-in, which gets installed in the browser, has been blasted for its constant security holes and performance problems. The industry has been gravitating toward HTML5 as a replacement for Flash, though the move has been a slow one.

Firefox has advised web developers who use Flash as well as Microsoft Silverlight for video to make the switch to HTML5 as quickly as possible. Smedberg said that Firefox supports encrypted video playback using Adobe Primetime and Google Widevine as alternatives to plug-in based video formats such as Flash.

Mozilla isn't waiting until next year to start reining in Flash.

Starting next month, the company will block certain Flash content not considered essential to the "user experience." At the same time, it will continue to support legacy Flash content, meaning content that can't be viewed any other way. Mozilla expects this move to offer "enhanced security, improved battery life, faster page load and better browser responsiveness," Smedberg said.

Further, Mozilla will continue to block specific Flash content that's invisible to users, a move that should reduce crashes and freezes by 10 percent. And later this year, the company plans to expand its ban on the use of Flash to check whether certain content can be viewed, which Smedberg said is a common way to measure advertising on the Web. This should improve the performance of Firefox as well as conserve battery life on mobile devices, Smedberg added.

A spokeswoman for Mozilla said the company had nothing to add beyond the blog post. A spokeswoman for Adobe sent CNET the following statement:

"As we stated back in November 2015, Adobe supports Open Web standards and believes HTML5 is the web platform of the future. We work closely with Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others to facilitate the adoption of these open standards. Mozilla's decision is part of this industry-wide evolution that Adobe is heavily invested in."

Update, 3:00 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Adobe.