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Tech Giants Announce Plans for Removal of Flash

Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla have outlined their plans for moving away from Flash Player now that Adobe officially announced an end-of-life (EOL) and end-of-support date for the controversial product.

Adobe announced on Tuesday that, following discussions with several technology partners, it has decided to stop updating and distributing Flash Player at the end of 2020. The company has encouraged developers and content creators to migrate to open standards such as HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly, which are supported by all major web browsers.

While Flash Player is still used by many websites and applications, the security community has been asking Adobe to retire the old software for several years due to the large number of vulnerabilities and numerous attacks involving Flash exploits.

Over the past years, web browser vendors and other Internet companies have taken steps to reduce the security risks associated with Flash Player by either limiting Flash content or banning it altogether.

Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla have promised to help with the transition and they have each outlined their plans for the complete removal of Flash support from their products.

Apple has been moving away from Flash since 2010. Currently, users need to manually install Flash if they need it and even so it remains disabled by default – manual approval is required on each website before the Flash plugin is executed.

Facebook, which still allows Flash games on its platform, says it has partnered with game developers to help them migrate to HTML5. The social media giant will accept Flash games until the end of 2020, but warned that the ability to play these games also depends on the decisions made by browser vendors.

Google pointed out that the number of Chrome users visiting a site with Flash every day has dropped from 80 percent three years ago to 17 percent today. Google has been and will continue to gradually phase out Flash – first by asking for explicit permission to run Flash content in more situations and eventually disabling it by default. The company wants to remove it completely toward the end of 2020.

Microsoft, which updates the Flash Player components used by its products every Patch Tuesday, wants to disable Flash by default in both Edge and Internet Explorer in mid-to-late 2019. Even if users will re-enable it, they will still need to manually approve Flash for each website. Flash will be removed completely by the end of 2020.

Mozilla’s roadmap for Flash is similar. The organization wants to disable Flash by default for most users in 2019, while allowing Extended Support Release (ESR) users to continue viewing Flash content through the end of 2020.

Related: Top 10 Security Threats for HTML5

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Related: Sofacy's Flash Player Exploit Platform Exposed

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.