Windows 8 will include a version of Internet Explorer 10 that uses Microsoft's "Metro" touch interface, and this new-age browser will not allow plugins – at all. The move is yet another blow to Adobe Flash, which is famously banned from Apple's iPhone and iPad.
"For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free. The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web," said IE chief Dean Hachamovitch.
"Running Metro style IE plug-in free improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers. Plug-ins were important early on in the web’s history. But the web has come a long way since then with HTML5. Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI."
Hachamovitch doesn't always play it straight with web standards, but in this case, Microsoft is making a serious statement about its intentions, and it has taken the fight to Flash in a way Google is unwilling to.
Due next year, Windows 8 will include two versions of Internet Explorer 10: one with a standard desktop interface, and one with Metro. The "legacy" version will allow plugins, but Microsoft says that a recent study of the web's top 97,000 sites showed that the time was ripe for a move to a plug-in free Metro browser.
According to Hachamovitch, 62 per cent of the top 97,000 websites currently use Flash, but "many" already fall back on HTML5 when they're visited by a browser without the Flash player. "When serving ads in the absence of plug-ins, most sites already perform the equivalent of this fallback, showing that this approach is practical and scalable," he says.
Google also believes in an HTML5 future for video and so many other web applications, but at the same time it has to accommodate YouTube, which was built on Adobe Flash. The company is moving the world's largest video site to HTML5 video and the open source WebM media format, but for the foreseeable future Flash will remain in place. HTML5 doesn't offer DRM, and though all the major browsers have embraced HTML5 video, they've yet to agree on a common codec. Whereas Mozilla, Opera, and Google use WebM, Apple and Microsoft back the royalty-encumbered H.264 – although Redmond has made a move towards WebM.
After Steve Jobs launched his jihad against Flash, Google leapt to Adobe's rescue. Mountain View now ships Flash with its Android mobile operating system, and it actually integrates the Flash Player with Chrome.
Microsoft has done the opposite. ®