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There are some sites that I use that require flash, but generally I would rather not use flash at all while working on the web. Is there some way to instruct Firefox to only permit flash use by certain sites?

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The Flash Block Firefox extension does exactly this. It starts out by blocking all Flash content, then you can build a whitelist.

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Works beautifully thanks. –  TimothyAWiseman Dec 13 '11 at 17:53

You can achieve this with AdBlock Plus. You could block all *.swf content or indeed all object/embed tags etc. It adds a toolbar icon next to your address bar which lets you temporarily disable the filtering or alternatively use a Whitelist.

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