I'm somewhat familiar with the family of legacy plugins - namely QuickTime, Flash, and the Java Web plugin to name a few. They've been kind of a mainstay of web applications for quite some time.

So, I was surprised to learn (well...I actually learned around this blog post instead, as a nondescript footnote) that NPAPI plugins are to be discontinued in Google Chrome. I've heard rumblings of it being removed in Firefox as well, but I haven't found any hard references to this.

That's fine. I can understand and respect that; those plugins add lots of security vulnerabilities to the browser on their own, and lots of bloat.

But, what does that really translate to for me as an end user? Does this mean that I won't be able to run applications that have an expectation of the Java, QuickTime, or Flash plugin to be available? Are there any replacements or an otherwise compatible "plugin" of sorts that could take its place until the application itself is updated?

Do I have to use an older version of my browser to continue using the applications that still make use of these plugins?

If need be, I can specify the platform I'm referring to: (X)Ubuntu/Linux Mint, latest version(s), 64-bit OS.

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I've actually did some research for my company since we do flash development. Here is the content of the email to the higher ups (some parts redacted)

tl;dr

Chrome

Chrome’s NPAPI deprecation roadmap:
http://www.chromium.org/developers/npapi-deprecation

  • January 2014. Common plug-ins, like Silverlight, Unity, Java will be whitelisted for now (although Unity and Java already blocked by default)
  • Other plug-ins will see yellow popup asking for permission.
  • Mid 2014. No more updates allowed for NPAPI plug-ins. NPAPI plug-ins no longer listed on store search.
  • Allowing blocked plug-ins to run will be more difficult through UI, but still possible (if already installed)
  • September 2014. All NPAPI plug-ins removed from store (but will still work if already installed)
  • End of 2014. NPAPI support in Chrome will be removed entirely (plug-ins using NPAPI will not work)

Chrome alternative to NPAPI:

Firefox

Firefox alternative to plug-ins:

  • Once again, suggestion is to use technologies available within the browsers, such as
    • WebGL, which allows OpenGL ES access
    • WebRTC.
  • I meant to thank you months ago for your answer, and I do appreciate it. I need some more concreteness around Firefox though; if it's going to stop outright supporting NPAPI plugins in the future. – Makoto Jul 18 '14 at 6:27
  • There's no concreteness, but the developers have clearly indicated that's the direction Firefox is eventually going, and that only HTML5 has a future. When they can implement even something as complex as the Unreal Engine entirely in JavaScript, I'm inclined to agree. Between the evolution of browser technologies and the emergence of mobiles as the dominant platform, plugins are dead. – Stephanie Aug 3 '14 at 14:15
  • To say Unity will simply shift to WebGL is underestimating the impact quite a but. E.g. portability and performance which Unity openly admits: "It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to simply float your game over from Unity Web Player" blogs.unity3d.com/2015/05/28/… – vinnyjames Jul 20 '15 at 16:53
  • I'm going to start updating this answer a bit to incorporate some new facts that have come up in light of recent events. The amount of information that you have here is great, but the response is a bit outdated now. – Makoto Feb 12 '16 at 19:39
  • @Makoto go ahead, I will admit I am not actively doing any work in this field, so don't have any updates myself – Slav Feb 16 '16 at 18:23

I will reply to 2 of your questions and i will give info about the status of NPAPI plugins in browser at 2018, for all those who requires to execute plugins because corporate pages, govern pages, elearning courses, hardware web Admin, etc...

Do I have to use an older version of my browser to continue using the applications that still make use of these plugins?

No, You have updated forks of Firefox supporting NPAPI, such as:

Waterfox 56 (updated and based in FF56)

Basilisk 201801 (updated and based in FF55)

Palemoon 27 (updated and based in FF27 UI)

Do I have to use an older version of my browser to continue using the applications that still make use of these plugins?

Yes, if you want to use the official Firefox or a Chrome browser. In fact the last version of a browser with 'Chrome' engine is:

Chromium. build 45.0.2416.0-win32 (it requires to enable PPAPI with chrome://flags/#enable-npapi)

  • Thing is, this doesn't actually answer the question. I would never encourage anyone to use older versions of browsers just for the sake of NPAPI support, since that's a bundle of vulnerability just waiting to burst out. – Makoto Jan 18 at 17:15
  • what? did you read my reply? older versions? Both Firefox versions are as much updated as any other browser (few days ago) . Chromiun version is outdated but it is not about encouraging to use but just information about the last version: From my point of view, and as end user, i'd appreciate this information and not a filtered/ censored information – Daniel Perez Jan 19 at 17:57
  • Then Makoto, what is your solution? Do not use any browser because total security is a myth? what about the people who need to execute NPAPI because it is not an option? for most consulting companies java and flash are still in use, they have so many contents an custom developments, that they will still using for a long time. No alternatives means users using a browser without security patches for several years. Whereas in my post, browser have updated code and security patches from few days ago. – Daniel Perez Jan 26 at 7:59
  • I won't deny that there are some services that still use NPAPI plugins and still rely on this. One of the services I use often - Crunchyroll - is still stick with a Flash player, yet Flash still works in the latest Chrome. Anyone on the latest version of Java has no plugin available to them since Oracle themselves ripped it out. It's been several years since these were announced to get removed; any consultancy firm that still relies on NPAPI plugins to deliver their product should have their contracts terminated due to delivering unmaintainable code. – Makoto Jan 26 at 16:22

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