Flash doesn’t get a lot of love these days, but it’s still ubiquitous on the web. To make displaying Flash content safer for its users, Google just announced that it is now putting the Flash Player plug-in it ships with Chrome for Windows (including the aging Windows XP) inside a new and enhanced sandbox “that’s as strong as Chrome’s native sandbox, and dramatically more robust than anything else available.” Besides the security advantages, Google also stresses that this change will reduce Flash crashes by about 20%.
Until now, the Flash plugin on Chrome for Windows used the older Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface. Now, it is using Google’s own Pepper Plugin API. This, apparently, wasn’t an easy undertaking as it took Google and Adobe two years to complete this project. According to Google software engineer Justin Schuh, “as the web evolved, the past benefits of NPAPI became liabilities” and NPAPI now “severely impedes or outright prevents us from extending those improvements to any pages with plug-in content.” Schuh also stresses that this change is the only way to use all of Flash’s feature in Windows 8 Metro/Windows 8-Style UI mode and all Windows users will now get to enjoy new hardware accelerated Flash features that weren’t previously possible with the NPAPI plugin.
For now, the PPAPI Flash port is only available on Chrome OS, Windows and Linux, but Google promises to ship Chrome for Mac with these enhances security and stability features “soon.”