Chrome sandbox cuts Flash crashes by 20 percent

By sandboxing Flash, Google says that Chrome crashes have dropped significantly. But Windows XP users now have a new incentive to stay on the ageing, security-lacking operating system.

Google has improved Flash sandboxing in the latest version of its Chrome browser for Windows, boosting its security and reducing crashes by as much as 20 percent.

A familiar sight for many.

Google ported Flash off the aging NPAPI architecture -- which it describes as "a thin layer of glue between the web browser and a native application" -- and onto its own sandboxed platform, PPAPI.

"By eliminating the complexity and legacy code associated with NPAPI we've reduced Flash crashes by about 20 percent," Justin Schuh, a Google software engineer, wrote on the Chromium blog.

By sandboxing Flash, a plug-in can crash without taking down the rest of the browser. Sandboxing was introduced in early versions of Chrome to prevent rogue tabs from causing such total browser crashes, and as an anti-malware measure.

The change also means Windows 8 users will be able to use all of a Web site's Flash features in 'Windows 8 mode', formerly known as Metro.

For Windows XP, the decade-old platform with fewer in-built security features as later versions of Windows, sandboxing acts as an important gateway between the browser and the operating system. Schuh said there are around 100 million Chrome users on Windows XP.

But Because Windows XP is still used by much of the enterprise through lack of backwards compatibility and a reluctance to upgrade, Chrome's making a solid pitch to the enterprise.

Chrome was, earlier this year, the world's top browser for a day, according to StatCounter figures. On March 18, the browser reached a 32.7 percent global market share, but by Monday it had declined by 5 percent, mostly due to a return to work and the majority of primary browser's in the workplace remains Internet Explorer.

Combine that with Windows XP remaining in a close 50/50 tie with Windows 7, it remains an ever-popular operating system in the enterprise, despite its small decline in market share month-on-month, according to Net Applications .

Considering 99.9 percent of Chrome users rely on Flash, most of whom are likely to be on Windows, that's a lot of users a bit less frustrated.

To get the improved sandboxing, Windows users should update to Chrome 22 if they haven't already, while Linux users will have had access to the new sandbox since Chrome 20. Apple users will see an OS X version shipped "soon", Schuh said, but did not give a timescale.