Google has just announced that starting with January 2014, they’ll ban all plugins that still use the very old Netscape plug-in application programming interface (NPAPI) with the exception of some plugins that are still used by more than 5 percent of Chrome users:
- Silverlight (15 percent of Chrome users)
- Unity (9.1 percent)
- Google Earth (9.1 percent)
- Java (8.9 percent)
- Google Talk (8.7 percent)
- Facebook Video (6.0 percent)
Google’s own Native Client and the PDF reader are also using NPAPI, but they’ll probably move them over to the Pepper plugin interface (PPAPI), which is what the built-in Flash plug-in is using right now, and won’t be affected by this new policy. Google explains why they’re making this move:
“The Web has evolved. Today’s browsers are speedier, safer, and more capable than their ancestors,” Schuh said. “Meanwhile, NPAPI’s ’90s-era architecture has become a leading cause of hangs, crashes, security incidents, and code complexity. Because of this, Chrome will be phasing out NPAPI support over the coming year.”
I think with this move Google is also forcing a lot of software vendors to just switch to using web technologies that are native to the browser, instead of plugins. So instead of using Flash players for example, they should be using HTML5 players. Netflix, which is the reason why so many people are still using Silverlight, is going to become HTML5-based soon, once DRM is enabled in more operating systems for it. Unfortunately, that’s the only way they or their content providers are going to accept the move to HTML5.
WebGL is also a native web technology that’s replacing the need for Flash in browsers when it comes to casual games. Almost all browsers support it already, and they are already working on the next-generation version called WebGL2, which will be based on OpenGL ES 3.0 (first one was based on OpenGL ES 2.o), so it will be able to keep up with mobile games at least. Google Maps has also already transitioned from Flash to WebGL.
Plugins like Gtalk, Hangouts and Facebook’s Java-based Skype plugin should soon switch to the new WebRTC protocol, which allows P2P video-chatting in the browser, plugin-free.
As you can see, all of these technologies are lining up to be replaced by native web browser technologies and protocols, and it’s only a matter of time because browsers become truly plugin-free.