A future version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser will drop support for plug-ins that include Adobe Flash, the current de facto platform for Facebook games.
As part of a series of Windows 8-related announcements at this week's Build developer conference, the company announced that its upcoming operating system will ship with two versions of Internet Explorer 10: one will be an iteration of the traditional desktop browser, complete with plug-in support, while the other will run in the tile-based Metro interface Gamasutra reported on this week.
That latter browser, which appears to be the operating system's default, will be entirely plug-in free, the company said.
"For the web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free," said Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch in a blog post. According to Hachamovitch, the plug-in experience is "not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web."
"Running Metro style IE plug-in free improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers," he continued. "Plug-ins were important early on in the web’s history. But the web has come a long way since then with HTML5. Providing compatibility with legacy plug-in technologies would detract from, rather than improve, the consumer experience of browsing in the Metro style UI."
While the company will still offer its alternative interface for desktop users, the news comes as a blow to developers who depend on platforms such as Flash and the Unity 3D engine for games. Microsoft is pushing hard for the adoption of this Metro interface, which resembles the current Windows Phone 7 GUI and is designed to run the same on both desktops and tablet environments.
According to Microsoft, the Metro version of the browser will have a "Use Desktop View" button to switch browsers for sites that require it.
Flash maker Adobe has been taking steps to insure its survival as the web transitions from plug-in dependence to a more universal HTML5 protocol, including building tools that allow traditional Flash media to be easily exported to other formats.
Many of the most popular sites on the internet have already begun offering alternative experiences for those running Flash-free browsers, such as the version of Safari on Apple's iOS devices. YouTube famously launched an HTML5 version of its website recently, and Facebook has been teasing Project Spartan, an HTML5-based app distribution platform.