Windows 8 browser to lack Flash compatibility

The Metro-style version of Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 will not support plug-ins, although a more traditional fallback version will still play along with Flash and similar technologies
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Adobe Flash and other plug-ins will be barred from one of the two Internet Explorer 10 browsers in Windows 8, Microsoft has said.

Windows 8

Microsoft has said that Adobe Flash and other plug-ins will be barred from the Metro version of IE10 in Windows 8. Photo credit: Microsoft

The Windows update will come with one version of IE for the operating system's touch-friendly Metro interface, which debuted in Windows Phone 7, and one for the traditional Windows desktop interface. The latter will support Flash and other plug-ins, but the Metro-style IE10 will not, according to IE team leader Dean Hachamovitch.

"For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro-style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML 5-only as possible and plug-in free," Hachamovitch said in a blog post on Wednesday. "The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro-style browsing and the modern HTML 5 web."

Running the Metro-style IE10 without plug-ins "improves battery life as well as security, reliability and privacy for consumers", he said.

"Plug-ins were important early on in the web's history. But the web has come a long way since then with HTML 5. Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro-style UI," Hachamovitch added.

Plug-ins were important early on in the web's history. But the web has come a long way since then with HTML 5.
– Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft

Adobe, the company behind Flash, said apps and games based on the ubiquitous multimedia technology will still be usable in the Metro environment, thanks to the cross-platform AIR runtime.

"Flash-based apps will come to Metro via Adobe AIR, much the way they are on Android, iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS today, including the recent number-one paid app for the iPad on the Apple App Store, Machinarium, which is built using Flash tools and deployed on the web using Flash Player and through app stores as a standalone app," Flash vice president Danny Winokur wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Machinarium provides an example of the repackaging of Flash-based apps that has taken place since Apple refused to let its iPhones and iPads support the technology. Using AIR, Adobe packages elements of Flash in with the application to create a standalone app that can run on devices that do not themselves come with Flash support.

HTML 5 development

Winokur also noted Adobe is "working closely with Microsoft, Google, Apple and others in the HTML community to drive innovation in HTML 5, to make it as rich as possible for delivering world-class content on the open web and through app stores".

Adobe has indeed been working on HTML 5, partly as a way of getting round the ban on Flash on iOS devices. A week ago, Adobe released a new version of Flash Media Server that recognises when the client browser does not support Flash, and delivers video streams to that browser using the HTML 5-friendly HLS technology instead.

Hachamovitch noted that 62 percent of the top Flash-using sites in the world already fall back to HTML 5 video when they detect the user's browser does not support Adobe's technology.

"When serving ads in the absence of plug-ins, most sites already perform the equivalent of this fallback, showing that this approach is practical and scalable," he wrote.

Line-of-business applications requiring legacy ActiveX controls will continue to run in the desktop browser, Hachamovitch said. He added that a simple button will let people switch from the Metro-style IE10 to its desktop counterpart when plug-in compatibility is needed.

In a note on Hachamovitch's blog post, Windows chief Steven Sinofsky pointed out that HTML 5 and script engines in the two IE10 iterations "are identical and you can easily switch between the different frame windows if you'd like".

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