Browser Plugins: Legacy Addons
Plugins are legacy applications installed onto your computer to view and hear multimedia content. Not all plugins are supported by all browsers.
Unlike extensions, which are installed in your browser, plugins provide support and access to "helper" applications that are already installed on your computer.
The Technology is Changing
While plugins were once the main method of adding multimedia functionality to browsers, they have extensive vulnerabilities and their reign is ending.
But as open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have matured over the past several years, most now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered and have become a viable alternative for content on the web.
Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins. — Adobe
Given that plugins tend to slow down your browsing experience, many of the plugins that were once considered mandatory, like Flash and Java, are now either no longer supported or disabled by default.
The internet is full of websites that go beyond static pages, such as video, sound and games. NPAPI plugins, especially Flash, have helped enable these interactive pages. But they also make your browsing slower, less secure and more likely to crash. — Mozilla
A sample audio control is shown below:
Source: Free Sounds (Public Domain)
HTML5 media controls are supported by all modern browsers and mobile devices but may be rendered differently.
Reader View Improves UX
Reader View improves user experience by removing page clutter like background images, ads and other distracting content. Text is presented in a readable font size on a white background.
Most current browsers support reader view including Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Not all sites support reader view.
HTML5 Safer and Accessible
HTML5-based technology is now widely used because it is much safer and more accessible than traditional plugins.
The commercial media industry is undergoing a major transition as content providers move away from proprietary web plug-in based delivery mechanisms (such as Flash or Silverlight), and replace them with unified plug-in free video players that are based on HTML5 specifications and commercial media encoding capabilities.
— Microsoft Edge Team
Unfortunately, big media companies have persuaded the W3C to incorporate DRM into HTML5, ensuring they can control what you watch and how you use it.
Learn more about how HTML5 is changing Web content and replacing plugins.
PDF is a format invented by Adobe that allows files to be viewed anywhere with the proper fonts regardless of the software it was created with.
Adobe Reader long provided access to online PDFs in browsers via a browser plugin.
Browsers Natively Display PDF Documents
Most modern browsers can now display PDF documents natively without plugins. Some features, like auto-fill, may not work.
- Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome display PDFs plus allow you to fill in PDF forms before you save or print them.
- Firefox has these capabilities starting with version 81.0.
- Older versions of Firefox will display PDFs, but requires an external viewer to open a PDF document containing forms.
Adobe Reader traditionally provided access to online PDF documents via a browser plugin.
Update Adobe Acrobat Reader
If Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed, be sure to update it regularly or uninstall it.
- Many computers have obsolete (unsafe) versions installed.
- Any version of Adobe Reader prior to the most recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is obsolete and unsafe.
Dedicated PDF Readers
Even though browsers have built-in capabilities, a dedicated PDF reader usually has more features than your browser can provide.
Changing Windows 10 Defaults
Windows 10 default handler for PDFs is Microsoft Edge but you can change that.
Click on Start ⇒ Settings ⇒ Apps ⇒ Default apps then scroll down and click on choose default applications by file type. Wait for the options to load, then scroll down to .PDF and change the default option there.
Adobe Flash Player
Adobe will be removing Flash Player download pages from its site. Adobe will not issue Flash Player updates or security patches after the EOL Date.
We recommend that all users uninstall Flash Player before the EOL date. Users will be prompted by Adobe to uninstall Flash Player on their machines later this year and Flash-based content will be blocked from running in Adobe Flash Player after the EOL Date. — Adobe
I strongly recommend that you uninstall flash. If installed, be sure to update it regularly.
Adobe Flash was the standard in creating animated clips and videos in the early days of the web. Back in the good 'ol days, it was a fan favorite for developers and designers alike, as it was very functional and easy to use.
But as technology progressed, Flash did not. This made it a prime target for hackers who saw Flash as an easy entry point. — ZoneAlarm
Many sites use Flash ONLY for advertising or tracking purposes. Enabling Flash invades your privacy without giving you anything of value in return.
Flash No Longer Viable
HTML5-based technology just works better than Flash and is safer.
- Flash is not supported by any major browser.
- Flash makes your computer more vulnerable to being infected and must be updated frequently to stay ahead of newly-discovered vulnerabilities.
- Flash is a 32-bit plug-in which won't work in 64-bit browsers. 32-bit browsers and plugins slow down modern 64-bit operating systems.
- Flash consumes a lot of energy and performs poorly, especially on mobile devices.
- Like Java-based games, Flash games are being replaced with HTML5-based games.
Downloading & Updating Flash
- Download Adobe Flash Player | Test your Flash installation.
- Before downloading Flash uncheck any optional downloads like McAfee Security Scan Plus or Google Chrome.
Verifying Flash Version in Windows
Windows users can verify the Flash version for each type of installation by opening the Flash Player Settings Manager in Control Panel (search for “Control Panel”) then selecting the Updates tab.
There are three different Flash installers for Windows, each supported by the indicated browsers. The difference in the installer name is in bold (the version number will change as Flash is updated):
- ActiveX (Internet Explorer: installation not recommended):
- NPAPI (Firefox — no longer supported by Chrome and Opera):
- PPAPI (Chrome and Opera):
NPAPI Plugins Unsafe
NPAPI-based Flash plugins make Windows insecure (see US-CERT Alert TA15-195A).
- NPAPI Flash plugins are now blocked by Firefox.
- Flash support will be completely removed from Firefox in early 2020.
- NPAPI Flash plugins are no longer supported in Chrome or Opera.
Flash is handled differently in Chromium-based browsers. Opening the Flash Player Settings Manager in Control Panel will bring up the following notice:
The settings on this page are not applicable to Google Chrome or Chromium-based browsers (PPAPI).
- Flash Player settings for Chromium based browsers — PPAPI.
- Flash can be turned off via the settings in Microsoft Edge.
You should uninstall Shockwave Player.
- Shockwave Player is obsolete, vulnerable and contains obsolete Flash components.
- The recommendation is to update it regularly yet the March 2017 security update was the first since October 2015 (Flash has had over 15 updates since then).
Download Shockwave or Test Your Installation
I advise against installing Shockwave Player, but you should maintain it if you do.
Java Support Ending
Public updates for Oracle Java SE 8 will remain available for individual, personal use through at least the end of 2020. Public updates for Oracle Java SE 8 released after January 2019 will not be available for business, commercial or production use without a commercial license. — Oracle
Java Makes Your Computer Vulnerable
It has been known for some time that Java makes your computer vulnerable.
Remove Java if you don't need it (most people don't).
By uninstalling Java you can determine if it is really necessary. It can be quickly reinstalled if you really do need it.
Browser Java Support Ended
Java plugins are now either unsupported or blocked by most browsers.
Online Gaming Sites
If you need to run Java or Flash for online gaming sites like Pogo.com, modern browsers no longer support either. These sites are moving away from both:
Java and Flash are two technologies that have powered Pogo games for many years, but they're no longer supported by most web browsers. Because of this, we're retiring some older Flash-based games from Pogo in March 2020. The rest of our Flash games will go away later in the year. — Pogo
Internet Explorer may be your only remaining option for Java-based games despite IE's obvious shortcomings but, like other legacy browsers, this puts your computer at risk.
Seek Newer HTML5 Games
Newer HTML5-based games work without plugins. These are a safer alternative (Java and Flash games will soon be gone anyhow).
Download/Test Your Installation
More about Java installation and security.
VLC Player, a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework, plays almost all multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols.
Uninstall QuickTime for Windows
QuickTime 7 for Windows is no longer supported by Apple and contains dangerous vulnerabilities. It should be uninstalled.
New versions of Windows since 2009 have included support for the key media formats, such as H.264 and AAC, that QuickTime 7 enabled. All current Windows web browsers support video without the need for browser plug-ins. — Apple Support
QuickTime for Mac
QuickTime is supported for macOS and iOS. Update to the latest version or uninstall it.
If you're using Quicktime Pro, save your registration key before uninstalling it.
I recommend that you uninstall RealPlayer.
- RealPlayer plugin has been flagged as unsafe by Firefox and Chrome.
- RealPlayer has a shady history of spyware and nag screen.
In the 1990s, RealPlayer was a fundamentally ambitious piece of software. It set the groundwork for how we would come to consume media, and in many respects, we owe it a massive debt of gratitude. But it was also a fundamentally flawed piece of software, whose execution didn't quite do its lofty goals justice.
20 years later, little has changed. The ambition behind RealPlayer is still there, but this time round, it feels much less focused. Rather than do one thing badly, RealPlayer does many things badly.— Make Use Of
Download/Test Your Installation
Apps are available for Windows 10, iOS and Android devices.