MOZILLA HAS ANNOUNCED that its Firefox browser is joining Google Chrome in ending support for NPAPI plugins.
The venerable standard, which dates back to the days of Netscape, is now showing its age, and causing more problems than it solves, and will see native support removed by the end of 2016.
However, it has just been confirmed that Mozilla has agreed that 64-bit users of the browser will be able to hang on to Silverlight until then, rather than the more immediate switch off that was planned.
Very little impact was caused when Google removed support in Chrome, except a lack of support for Microsoft's Silverlight which brought down several top streaming media sites including Sky Go and BT Sport.
Benjamin Smedberg, Firefox's quality engineering manager, explained on the Mozilla Blog: "As browsers and the web have grown, NPAPI has shown its age. Plugins are a source of performance problems, crashes and security incidents for web users.
"Mozilla intends to remove support for most NPAPI plugins in Firefox by the end of 2016. Firefox began this process several years ago with manual plugin activation, allowing users to activate plugins only when they were necessary.
"This decision mirrors actions by other modern browsers, such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, which have already removed support for legacy plugins.
"Moreover, since new Firefox platforms do not have to support an existing ecosystem of users and plugins, new platforms such as 64-bit Firefox for Windows will launch without plugin support."
However, there is one notable exception to the ruling. Mozilla has said that it will continue to support Adobe Flash and will work with the company to improve the Flash experience in Firefox.
Google 'paused' Flash content in advertising displayed in Chrome earlier this year to stop it slowing down pages or leaking malware into the computer.
For the rest, Mozilla emphasises that it is time to move on. "Websites and publishers which currently use plugins such as Silverlight or Java should accelerate their transition to web technologies. The web platform is powerful and can usually do everything that a plugin can do," Smedberg said.
The post goes on to suggest that, if it can't be done natively, the next best idea would be to write a plugin.
As ever, Mozilla has found a middle way. As calls grow for Adobe to can Flash once and for all, the Firefox browser will continue to support it, but for NPAPI, which will soon be available only in the heritage Microsoft Internet Explorer, this is game over.
It means that Microsoft will have to revisit its stubbornness over Silverlight, as will the many broadcasters around the world that continue to use it. µ
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