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Five no-bull facts about Chrome pulling out plug-ins

26/11/2014 by


The clock is ticking for plug-ins in Chrome based on the NPAPI standard; here's what you need to know about how it will affect enterprise use.

Last year, Google announced it was embarking on a multimonth program to phase out the use of plug-ins based on the NPAPI (Netscape API) standard, a move as radical as Internet Explorer ditching the use of ActiveX controls. A year later, the plan continues unabated, with a total phaseout scheduled for late in 2015.

Google has good reason to ditch NPAPI -- it's buggy, problematic, and a relic of a past that Google has been trying to move Chrome beyond. But there's no question such a movie will have an impact, and here are five of the biggest points to keep in mind.

1. The number of plug-ins affected is small, but significant

Chief among them are Java, Silverlight, Facebook's Unity game-playback plug-in, and two of Google's own creations: Google Earth and Google Talk. There's been less emphasis over time on Java apps in the browser in enterprise settings, but those still delivering critical applications via Java to endpoints running Chrome must look for another solution pronto.

Losing Silverlight isn't a major setback. Microsoft has been deprecating use of the framework for some time now, and its biggest real-world implementation, the Netflix in-browser player, now has an HTML5-powered substitute. Google will likely come up with replacements for its own plug-ins in short order as well.

2. If you're not happy about this, you're not alone

Not everyone is thrilled about the idea of killing off NPAPI -- not even across the course of almost two years. FireBreath, creators of a browser plug-in creation framework, gave the idea the thumbs-down. In FireBreath's eyes, there is no good replacement for what NPAPI has provided, and its rundown of the available replacement technologies found that the suggested replacements were either in their infancy, too manufacturer-centric (such as Google Native Client or Mozilla js-ctypes extensions), or lack direct access to hardware.

If you're upset that Google is going to jerk your chair out from under you, you're far from alone, and some of the criticisms mounted have merit. If Google (and Mozilla) can't offer better short-term solutions for the problems described above, they may have to allow a NPAPI compatibility system to grandfather in the last of those stuck with such plug-ins.

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