Flash-free

Software

The other day, after reading this post by Steven Frank, I felt tempted to follow his steps:

When I heard that the new MacBook Air models were shipping without any Flash plug-in installed, the first thing I did was check to see if one of my long-standing Safari annoyances was fixed. It was.

It used to be that if you completely removed the Flash and Shockwave plug-ins, by deleting or moving them out of /Library/Internet Plug-Ins and (Home)/Library/Internet Plug-Ins, you would get alerts constantly while browsing telling you that they were missing.

No longer. Now you just get a “missing plug-in” image inline where the Flash object would have been.

If you want to do as I do, quit Safari, and move ClickToFlash, Flash Player.plugin, flashplayer.xpt, and NP-PPC-Dir-Shockwave from those folders to somewhere else. I made a folder called “Internet Plug-Ins Disabled”.

But I wasn’t 100% sure. Then I read this. And finally, today I did just that, I went Flash-free too. And boy, what a difference.

John Gruber has just done the same and has written a thorough entry on Daring Fireball talking about his experience. Gruber writes:

Here’s what I did last week.

First, I disabled the Flash Player and old ClickToFlash plugins. On my system, Flash Player was in the default location: /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/. I moved “Flash Player.plugin”, “flashplayer.xpt”, and “NP-PPC-Dir-Shockwave” out of that folder and into a new folder I created next to it named “Internet Plug-Ins (Disabled)”. All you need to do to disable them is move them out of /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/. I also moved ClickToFlash (“ClickToFlash.webplugin”) to this disabled plugins folder. (ClickToFlash, if you have it installed, might be in the Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ folder in your home folder, rather than at the root level of your startup drive.)

After logging out and logging back in to my user account, Flash Player is no longer available to Safari or Firefox. This is more or less the state Mac OS X is now shipping in by default.

[…]

Without Flash installed, Safari effectively tells websites you visit, “Hey, I don’t have Flash installed”, which allows the sites to send alternative content. Static images instead of Flash for ads, for example. With ClickToFlash, Safari is effectively telling websites you visit, “Yes, sure, I have Flash installed,” but then not actually loading Flash content. I see far fewer “Flash missing” boxes in web pages now than I did with ClickToFlash.

This is all fine and dandy” — I hear you say — “But what if there’s some Flash content I do want to see?”. Well, there are a couple of ways to do that. If you’re thinking about YouTube content, as Frank and Gruber suggest, you can install the YouTube5 Safari extension by Connor McKay. As Gruber explains:

With this extension installed, embedded YouTube videos are modified to use the HTML5 video tag rather than Flash Player for playback. This is possible because behind the scenes, all YouTube videos are encoded using H.264.

Since I don’t like extensions, and I want my copy of Safari to stay extensions-free as well, I’ve chosen the Google Chrome way. Gruber again:

But that doesn’t mean I never run into Flash content I wish to view but for which there is no HTML5 alternative. Google Chrome offers a workaround — Chrome includes its own self-contained Flash Player plugin. Removing Flash Player from /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ prevents Safari and Firefox (and almost all other Mac web browsers) from loading Flash content, but not Chrome.

So, whenever I hit a page with Flash content I wish to view, I open that page in Chrome. As soon as I’m done watching it, I quit Chrome, which ensures Flash Player isn’t left running in the background.


 

Before removing the relevant plug-ins, I had Safari open with 9 tabs. Most of them were light-to-medium websites, content-wise. Then there was The New York Times, which was open on its homepage, a medium-to-heavy load for the browser since there were two or three boxes with Flash content (blocked by ClickToFlash, but still). I fired up Activity Monitor, and before opening the New York Times website, Safari was using 9–13% of CPU resources (my Mac is a mid-2009, MacBook Pro 15″, with a 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 4 GB RAM). When the New York Times homepage was fully loaded, Safari’s CPU usage jumped to 98–100%:

Safari before removing Flash

Then I closed Safari, removed the plug-ins, reopened it, told it to ‘Reopen All Windows from Last Session’, and the previous 9 tabs began reloading. First thing I noticed: they reloaded much faster than they usually do (I usually keep 6 of those tabs open, since they’re frequently visited sites, so I know how much time they need to load). Then, after the New York Times homepage finished rendering, I opened Activity Monitor again. Surprise:

Safari after removing Flash

I know it’s not a scientific test and everything, but I assure you that the difference, performance-wise, is definitely noticeable after removing Flash. And while before the New York Times had a few Flash-enabled boxes, now that it detects that Flash is lacking, it serves me static ads in a couple of places, and in the video section I get this:

Flash-less NYT

But I can live with it, I just open Google Chrome to do the dirty work. To make things faster (and even before reading Gruber’s piece), I enabled a keyboard shortcut for the command Develop > Open Page With > Google Chrome.app, so that when in Safari I arrive on a webpage with Flash content, I just hit that shortcut and the page opens in Chrome.

Hint #1: if you don’t have the Develop menu in Safari, you can enable it in Safari > Preferences > Advanced; Hint #2: to create a shortcut for an item that it’s actually a submenu (like in this case), you just ignore that it’s a submenu. In other words, when you have to add the command description for the shortcut in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts, you do not enter “Open Page With Google Chrome.app”, you only enter “Google Chrome.app”).

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6 Comments

  1. Steve says

    I was very keen to try this Flash Free World. I downloaded Chrome. Enabled the Develop menu in Safari as described and tried to get a shortcut going, but to no avail.
    Without being trite, is it possible to upload a video of the process from start to finish for the less technically minded, particularly the shortcut part?

    Cheers

    • Steve — Sadly, I can’t upload a video with my current (free) WordPress setup. But I can try a more detailed explanation.

      1. Plug-ins removal: Go to the following folder: [Your hard drive name]/Library/Internet Plug-Ins. You should see a series of files with the “.plugin” extension. There are 3 that need to be moved: Flash Player.plugin, flashplayer.xpt, NP-PPC-Dir-Shockwave. There should already be a “Disabled Plug-Ins” folder in the “Internet Plug-Ins” folder. Put the 3 files there. Then, if you have installed ClickToFlash for Safari, also look for a file called ClickToFlash.webplugin. If it’s in the afore-mentioned “Internet Plug-Ins” folder, put it with those other 3 files in the “Disabled Plug-Ins” folder. Otherwise, look for it in the following folder: [Your home folder]/Library/Internet Plug-Ins. If this folder is empty, fine. Otherwise move the file away. (I created another folder to put it in, for instance). That’s it.
      2. Creating the shortcut to open a webpage in Google Chrome from inside Safari: Open System Preferences. Go to the Keyboard panel. Go to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. In the left panel, select “Application Shortcuts” (it should be the last item of the list). Click on the [+] button. A smaller panel will slide down. In the Application drop-down menu, select “Safari.app”. In the Menu Title text field, enter “Google Chrome.app” (without quotes). In the Keyboard Shortcut text field, enter the key combination you want to use. Click on the Add button. Done. (Should you choose an existing shortcut, the system will warn you).

      If you need further clarification, I’m here :)

      Cheers,
      RM

  2. Steve says

    Hi Riccardo,
    Thanks for the reply. I did everything down to the letter, but with no joy.
    Tried different key combinations, restarting, everything…

    Oh well, thanks anyway!

  3. Just one question: if I’m using Chrome as first and unique browser, can I consider myself flash free or do I have to remove all those flash plugins?

    • effemmeffe – Well, I suppose you’ll have to eradicate the Flash Player plug-in used by Chrome. In Mac OS X, you should find it by right-clicking on the Google Chrome.app icon, then navigating through the following folders: Contents > Versions > 7.0.517.44 > Google Chrome Framework.framework > Internet Plug-Ins and remove the Flash Player Plugin for Chrome.plugin file.

      Note #1: in the previous path, the Versions subfolder on my Mac actually contains two folders, 7.0.517.41 and 7.0.517.44. Both folders contain the same Google Chrome Framework.framework > Internet Plug-Ins folder hierarchy, and so there are two ‘Flash Player for Chrome’ plug-ins, one for each path. I guess it should be enough to remove the plug-in only for the newest version, but if you want to make sure you’re completely flash-free, you can remove both files.

      Note #2: I haven’t removed the Flash Player plug-in inside of Chrome, since I use Chrome as one of my secondary browsers and I want to keep the Flash player inside of Chrome as a last-resort measure. So I advise caution. It’s a plug-in, so Chrome shouldn’t break or explode if you remove it, but I wouldn’t delete it immediately after removal. Just put it in another place, then open Chrome and see what happens. You can put it back in case Chrome starts malfunctioning.

      Cheers,
      RM

  4. Ok, thanks, I’ll try it at home.
    Even if I’m not sure I need to be flash free. I have to think about it a little more.

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