Chrome Lets You Remove Your Flash and Have It, Too

John Gruber at Daring Fireball has a clever workaround for when you want to have Flash available on demand on a Mac, but don't want it installed by default in all your browsers. John formerly used ClickToFlash with Safari to let him selectively control which Flash content displayed; there's a similar add-on called Flashblock for Firefox. Instead, John removed Flash from the various plug-in directories shared by browsers. He notes that Web sites now feed him alternative content, like static ads, since his browser no longer pretends it can accept Flash only to ignore it. A YouTube extension forces HTML5-compatible video to load, too. When he needs Flash, John launches Google Chrome, which has integral Flash support (it can be disabled, but you can't whitelist or blacklist specific sites). When he's done, he quits Chrome to prevent Flash from chewing cycles in the background.


  1. That’s not a workaround, that’s simply an inconvenience. Flash is the new IE 6… Can we please take this Internet zombie and return it to the afterworld before it eats all our CPU cycles (aka computer braaaains)?

  2. you might argue that I’m too lazy to actually rtfa, and you might be right, but it doesn’t help that that’s about the least clever sounding thing I’ve seen described as clever today

    1. You are missing the point if you don’t consider this clever. If you actually took the time to read the article you would know by now that flashbock and adblock reports to the server that flash is installed and therefore it will still try to send you Flash content rather than HTML content. This allows the user to tell the server (and its owners) that they want none of that Flash stuff.

  3. @1: FlashBlock is wonky.

    @2: Adblock doesn’t appear to let you selectively block Flash content, but I may be mistaken.

    @4: It’s clever, because all previous alternatives require you to keep Flash available for all browsers and use workarounds that make it seem to Web sites like you can view Flash, rather than just reserving a browser type for Flash.

  4. I do the same thing to avoid Facebook tracking me. I use Firefox for everything else and only visit Facebook using Chrome.

    To prevent cross-browser ID via Flash cookies I use the BetterPrivacy plugin for Firefox which deletes all Flash cookies on exit.

  5. “that’s about the least clever sounding thing I’ve seen described as clever today”

    Agreed. Use two different browsers, with different features/plug-in’s in both. BFD!, but also standard for Mac fanboys who believe every new thing, is genuinely new.

    And I use a triple-boot Macbook, and also loathe Flash. FWIW.

  6. What? I’m having difficulty understanding why this is considered in any way advantageous.

    Using two browsers is not a solution to anything and it is certainly inferior to using FlashBlock. Can you explain please how FlashBlock is so wonky that using two browsers is better? Errant Flash processes “chewing cycles in the background” are not a problem with Chrome, only Safari, since tabs run in their own processes (along with their plugin child processes.) So running Chrome + FlashBlock would actually be better in every way.

    John Gruber’s motivations for doing this are first, silly: he claims that there’s some kind of “honesty” that matters in the negotiation between a browser and a server, and that telling a server your browser can play Flash when you have a filtering plugin installed is somehow dishonest. I’m sorry, but I don’t aspire to a definition of honesty that crosses into pedantry.

    But, second, there is a benefit to removing Flash — although not if one simply goes ahead and uses another browser — and that is this: Adobe makes a big deal about how Flash plugin penetration is so high, higher even than JavaScript support (browsers which have support turned on.)

    If enough people do remove the plugin and don’t cheat, those numbers can start coming down, and that adds just one more reason why web designers should dump Flash.

    1. You’re wrong about the process isolation in Chrome, it’s true that each tab gets it’s own process, but Flash has one process that’s shared amongst all tabs (so if Flash crashes on one tab, it crashes on them all – as it has a habit of doing every freaking day recently!).

      One thing I’ve noticed that prevents it from causing lots of problems (and helps with memory leaks), is that if you go into the Task Manager in Chrome (Shift+Esc), scroll down to the bottom you can see the Plug-In processes, I try now to close the Flash process a few times every day (which requires me to reload any tabs that use the Flash plug-in, though the rest of the page still works without reloading).

  7. I disabled Flash on my computer, which means I often can’t see the video clips that Open-Source Cory posts.

  8. “flashbock and adblock reports to the server that flash is installed and therefore it will still try to send you Flash content rather than HTML content. This allows the user to tell the server (and its owners) that they want none of that Flash stuff.”

    Fair enough, but this “solution” still requires the use of two different, differently-configured browsers. Something people have been doing to obtain work-arounds, for years.

  9. The whole “Flash will eat your battery” issue is flawed as what they compared Flash to was static images or no ads at all. When HTML 5 ad alternatives (or even animated gifs) get adopted as Flash alts guess what: they will steal your CPU (and there will be no way to shut them out like we do now with Adblock, Noscript, ClicktoFlash etc.

    Sure, animations (be it Flash or HTML 5) will use more CPU, but it’s seriously wrong to think that by banning Flash you’re free to surf without any CPU consuming ads. Depending on how many people do this trick (10% of global PC users are Mac users so… not much incentive there), HTML 5 ads will get implemented and you’re stuck with an ad format you can’t bypass or block. Well done fanbois.

    1. “Well done fanbois.”
      Well done on that ad hominem.

      Ok, on to your straw man argument. I have one thing to say to prove you wrong: Adblockers already can block HTML elements. It’s what they do.

    2. Flash is notoriously a CPU hog for a reason, and the alternatives need not equal it. I did some video optimization for Flash on Netbooks and found that Flash video ate the entire CPU, where playing the video through a dedicated video player barely bumped the needle above 1%.

      By changing encodings, we were able to get usage down to 50-90%, so at least it wouldn’t stutter.

      Flash – particularly video – is terrible CPU hog, and it is not justified by the stupid fancy junk it does.

      1. Anonymous: “Flash is notoriously a CPU hog for a reason, and the alternatives need not equal it.”
        This video site did some benchmarking and discover that in some cases HTML5 video was more efficient and other cases the Flash Player was around the same or even more efficient:
        Since then Apple opened up an API for Adobe to get access to the GPU so that the currently Flash Player uses less CPU on Mac 10.6.3 (still only for supported graphic cards).

        Meanwhile, Adobe has recently been demoing further speed increases. For sites using Flash just as a video container, they remove the video from the Flash DisplayList (think of it as the Flash’s DOM) and place it as the root layer. They call it StageVideo and had an example of 1080 HD video playing on an MacBook AIR & PC netbook with just 8% to 10% CPU. Adobe also demoed a 4K video (generally for giant screens and projections) running smoothly at full frame rate.

        Here’s another link comparing HTML5 Canvas to Flash on mobile devices showing it consume more CPU and battery:
        Basically if Flash did drop enough for penetration for HTML5 to take over, it wouldn’t save battery life or CPU. Nor would it get rid of the blinking, animated ads which generally have a better click rate than static ads, providing more money. As the majority of sites online like BoingBoing, continue to make their money from ads and blocking ads means sites don’t make any money. Which is okay if the people doing it is small enough, but if enough people do it, then no more content or you will have to pay to view such content.

    1. If you are opposed to Google’s SW Updater, all you have to do is lock down the location where the Updater would normally install. I wrote an Applescript to do it a long time ago:

      The website I am hosting it on is defunct right now, but that link still works. You can unpack it and inspect the Applescript if you want.

      Basically, in ~/Library/Google folder & /Library/Google folder (if it exists), create a new folder called “GoogleSoftwareUpdate” or empty the one that is currently there. Then Get Info on it and lock it. Voila. Install all the Google software you want without the update engine.

      Mind you, you are fully responsible for your own security and patching then!

  10. 1) Google makes Chrome.
    2) Google sells ads.
    3) Google will never allow selective Flash blocking in Chrome.

  11. wrench -> settings -> under the hood -> content settings -> plugins -> click to play

    Google already allows you to selectively block plugin content, flash included

    1. Once again, that is not the main purpose, Chrome will still report to the server that you have flash installed, so it will do nothing.

  12. @Niklas – I visit many gaming sites and you’d be amazed at the amount of Flash Google is now serving. It’s amazingly annoying!

    @liamuk – Thanks.

    Installing chromeadblock now.

    I really don’t mind static ads at all. Movement, and worse yet, sound makes me crazy.

  13. Wouldn’t multiple Firefox profiles do the exact same thing, without modifying the rest of the experience?

  14. Alas, if you’ve locked down Google’s uber update app (one universal app responsible for any Google app installed) you don’t get Flash installed by default with Chrome and it continues to use the one install in your Internet Plugins directory…

  15. I’m reading BB right now using Firefox with the Prefbar addin:

    Yes, it does take up some screen real estate with yet another bar, but it has on/off toggles for Flash, Javascript, graphics, and background color (black background webpages really roil my bowels…).

    Whenever I am reading a blog or news site when only the text is of interest, I can easily browse like it’s 1994, and no switching browsers or profiles needed.

  16. FWIW, I use flash in Opera on Linux (my longtime browser of choice), and find it runs wonderfully. Much better than in Firefox, for some reason.

    Seeing how the only advantage to this is that you are served HTML instead of Flash ads, I don’t really see what’s so great about this idea. Too much of a pain in the ass.

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