Finally, Adobe releases a 64-bit Flash Player

After years of promises, Adobe has finally delivered a Flash Player that offers full support for 64-bit browsers. Flash Player 11 also includes a wide range of performance, reliability, and security improvements. Is this enough to rehabilitate Flash's tattered reputation?
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

Adobe has finally released a Flash Player that includes full native 64-bit support for 64-bit browsers on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The official announcement of the availability of Flash Player 11 is here, and the download itself is here.

It's been a long time coming. Back in July 2008, more than three years ago, I noted that Adobe's official support page for the Flash Player included this text:

Adobe is working on Flash Player support for 64-bit platforms as part of our ongoing commitment to the cross-platform compatibility of Flash Player. We have not yet announced timing or release dates.

And now, with little fanfare, it's here.

When I visited the Flash Player download page on a system running the 64-bit version of Windows 7, I was greeted with this dialog box:


Two aspects of that screen are noteworthy.

The first is the message that a single installer adds both 32-bit and 64-bit support. I was impressed with the new streamlined installer, which finished quickly and didn't require any confirmations or check boxes after I clicked Run. When I opened the 64-bit version of Internet Explorer, I was able to play Flash content—something that was impossible before except using experimental code.

Unfortunately, that installer screen also shows Adobe's continuing commitment to foistware—in this case, the Google toolbar that the company continues to push as part of the Flash Player installation. I've complained about it before, but in this new version that check box is still selected by default.

A separate installation of Flash Player 11 on the latest version of Firefox included an offer to install McAfee Security Scan Plus; here, too, the option was pre-selected and I had to clear the check box to ensure that I didn't install an unwanted security program. (Google Chrome already contains the latest Flash Player and doesn't require an update.)

Flash Player 11 includes a number of significant security and privacy improvements. But the performance and reliability improvements, continuing work that Adobe has been pursuing for the past couple years, are especially noticeable. Back in May 2010, I called Flash "the new Vista," pointing to its dismal record on issues of reliability and performance. Without a lot of fanfare, Adobe has improved that record substantially.

In that earlier post, I was able to identify dozens of crashes and hangs that were specifically traceable to Internet Explorer's Flash utility. Just now, I checked on my primary system, which has been in service for more than six months. The Windows Reliability Index shows an average of one problem with Internet Explorer per week during that period—usually a website that stops responding and has to be manually reloaded. During that time, I have not recorded a single crash or hang that can be traced to the Flash Player.

There's no question that Flash has developed a terrible reputation over the years, with Steve Jobs' April 2010 "Thoughts on Flash" being a particularly low point.

It remains to be seen whether Adobe can successfully rehabilitate the reputation of Flash Player, but there's no question that this is a step in the right direction.

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