What is a plugin?
A plugin is a small piece of software which your web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox,
Chrome, Safari) uses to help it display content on a web page. For example, the Microsoft Sliverlight plugin lets you watch films on Amazon Instant Video and the Adobe Flash Player plugin lets you listen to music on Spotify and watch TV on BBC iPlayer. Without the plugins, the web browser would only be able to show text and images. Many plugins are now being phased out and Netflix, which previously relied on Silverlight, now uses HTML 5 which is able to be displayed in browsers without the use of a plugin.
What is happening and what does it mean for me?
Google announced in 2013 that it intended to remove support for plugins from Chrome and from version 42 onwards has disabled them by default, meaning you need to visit chrome://flags/#enable-npapi in the address bar in Chrome to use them. From September this workaround will be removed, and plugins such as Silverlight and Java will no longer work in Google Chrome. Flash Player is built into Chrome so this will continue to work.
Why is Google doing this?
Mainly for security reasons. Plugins are old technology and prone to crashes, security vulnerabilities and other issues.
What can I do about it?
Long term solutions
Many plugins are being replaced with native solutions such as HTML 5, but if you need to use a website which still uses plugins then you can install another web browser or use the one provided with Windows (Internet Explorer) or Mac OSX (Safari). Our recommendation would be Firefox.
Still need help?
If you’re confused by what you need to do (if you don’t use Google Chrome then you don’t need to do anything) then please get in touch for help and advice or leave a comment below.