Web browser plugins in the past have served a purpose that other technologies could not equally provide users of the browser with. From streaming video over gaming to other multimedia applications. Especially Adobe Flash, and to a lesser extend Sun's Java, need to be mentioned in this regard, as those two are likely the plugins with the largest reach.
Ever since Steve Jobs' thoughts on Flash, and likely long before that, it became clear that there is a shift away from proprietary plugins towards an open web.
Back in 2010 I published the a life without Flash article which looked at what Flash had to offer, and if other technologies were able to provide users with alternatives.
While most agreed that Flash was the cause for many issues that users experienced on the web (low battery life, crashes, security issues), most back then stated that there was not really a way around the plugin yet.
Since then I have been running Firefox without plugins - more or less - and switched to Chrome whenever I needed access to a plugin like Flash. More or less meaning that there is always the chance that the browser picks up a new plugin installed by a software or update on the system without me having a chance to prevent the automatic installation and enabling of said plugin.
With Microsoft's announcement to ship the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 without plugin support, came the idea to revitalize and expand the old article.
Is it possible to run a web browser without a single plugin and not miss out on contents on the Internet?
Disabling plugins can have a beneficial effect on the browser. It can improve the browser's stability, security and performance. You may for instance notice that Flash ads are not loaded anymore which use more bandwidth and processing power than static ads.
Depending on what you use the web browser for, you may run into situations where you can't access a website at all because of a missing plugin, or fail to load part of a site or service because of it. Even on YouTube with the HTML beta enabled, you may run into compatibility issues with some browsers. With Firefox and Opera for instance, you will notice that many newer videos won't play at all, because of missing h.264 support.
If you watch videos or play games in the browser, there is still no way around plugins right now. If you are a Firefox or Opera user and want to use YouTube, Vimeo, or any of the other big video sites, you basically have to install Flash to do so or find a workaround like downloading videos or replacing the Flash player with another player.
For me personally, it is still all about using my main browser without plugins, which works just fine most of the time, and Google Chrome with plugins whenever I need to access contents that require plugins and that I can't get around.
Will I still be using plugins in two years time? Or will we see a shift away from plugins in the next years? What's your take on this?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.