Google on Tuesday will begin pausing Flash ads by default in Chrome, a move that is designed mainly to help improve browser speed, but that will also be a security upgrade for users.
The company announced the plan back in June and said this week that it will make the behavior the default setting for Chrome on Sept. 1. Flash ads are a major part of the Web right now, much to the frustration of many users and security experts, who see the auto-playing of such content as a potential threat. Google has been converting many new Flash ads on its platforms to HTML5 when they’re uploaded through AdWords and other tools. The company is now encouraging advertisers to convert to HTML5 any of their ads that aren’t eligible for automatic conversion by Google itself.
Flash is a common target for attackers and there have been numerous attack campaigns over the years that have utilized malicious ads and other Flash content that browsers play automatically. Chrome gives users the ability to disable automatic execution of Flash, Java, and other content through a click-to-play option. This forces the user to make a conscious decision to play the content rather than letting the site make that decision for him.
Google said that the change in Chrome to pause Flash ads by default is mostly about increasing browser speed and extending the battery life of mobile devices.
“Video and interactive media bring consumers rich, engaging experiences on the web–but they can also impact browser speed and battery life. A few months ago, Chrome introduced a setting designed to increase page-load speed and reduce power consumption by pausing certain plugin content, including many Flash ads. As soon as September, this setting will be turned on by default so Chrome users can enjoy faster performance and view more content before charging their batteries,” Google said in an AdWords blog post in June.
For advertisers, the change may mean some work on their end. Advertisers will need to start building their ads in HTML5, unless they plan to continue using Flash and having Google convert them automatically. But that conversion program may not last forever.
For Chrome users, the pausing of Flash ads gives them one more way to avoid Flash-based attacks.