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Software & Web Development

Edge freezes Flash content; imitates Chrome and Safari

Microsoft yesterday said its Edge browser would follow in the footsteps of Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari by freezing some content rendered by Adobe's Flash Player.

The new feature appeared in the edition of Edge packaged with Windows 10 Insider build 14316, which Microsoft issued Wednesday.

"With the Anniversary Update to Windows 10, Microsoft Edge will intelligently auto-pause content that is not central to the Web page," wrote John Hazen, an Edge program manager, in a post to a company blog today.

The behavior will be identical to what Chrome has done since September 2015, when it began to freeze peripheral-to-the-page Flash content in its "Stable" version. In fact, Hazen's description was almost a word-for-word repeat of what Google engineer Tommy Li wrote last year.

Google, in turn, had copied Apple, which introduced Flash freeze in Safari 7, the browser bundled with 2013's OS X Mavericks.

In both Chrome and Safari, users can click the Flash content to activate it. Without a click, the content remains visible but static. Edge will work the same way.

As Google's Li did in 2015, Hazen asserted that suppressing Flash auto-run content would reduce notebook battery consumption. He also said Microsoft was pressing for a future without Flash, long a crucial component of Web pages but so widely used that cyber criminals have rooted out scores of vulnerabilities to exploit. Adobe, for instance, yesterday released a patch for Flash to close a hole hackers had driven a new type of ransomware through.

"We are planning for and look forward to a future where Flash is no longer necessary as a default experience in Microsoft Edge," said Hazen.

Unlike Chrome, Edge will apparently not let users modify the browser's default stance on Flash: Computerworld could not find an option in the browser's settings panel to disable the auto-run blocking.

Nor did Hazen hazard comment on Microsoft's more popular Internet Explorer (IE) browser, which will presumably not be retrofitted with the feature. Previously, Microsoft has said that active development of IE had been halted -- although security flaws will be fixed -- because the browser is meant as a legacy tool for running older Web apps and websites, primarily by corporate customers.

An updated Edge with the Flash-freeze feature will debut within the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, 2016's sole upgrade, which Microsoft intends to release this summer.

Windows Insider participants assigned to the "Fast" release ring can try out Edge's Flash blocking by running build 14136.

IDG Insider

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