Tobold's Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Legacy websites and Chrome stopping to support plugins

Google decided that their browser Chrome should stop supporting plugins, especially the Microsoft Silverlight plugin, because well, it's from Microsoft and not from Google. A number of websites are affected by this. And while there are lot of sites with a lot more traffic, the one site where this affects me is the Wizards of the Coast D&D Insider archive with the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons online tools.

I'm not quite certain why, but official computer and online tools for Dungeons & Dragons have always been a sad story. Usually you get a lot of promises for those tools when a new edition of D&D comes out, and then the whole plan falls apart and you get very little. That is what happened with the current 5th edition. For 4th edition, although the tools never lived up to the promises, at least WotC had two programs that worked quite well, a character creator, and a monster builder / database. And because my group like tactical combat and half of my players don't speak English and 5E isn't on offer in any other language, I am still using those online tools and pay a subscription for them.

But of course WotC isn't providing any new additions or support to the legacy website of D&D Insider. We can be happy enough they didn't shut it down yet. And as the tools work with Microsoft Silverlight, I now need to use Internet Explorer instead of Chrome. And I wonder how many other legacy sites there are out there that got created with plugins, and there is nobody to redo them in the new standard that Google is trying to impose on us. I would imagine that people are much more faithful to their preferred websites than to their preferred browser. If Chrome doesn't support your favorite websites any more, then goodbye Chrome! Google might well be shooting themselves in the foot with this more than hurting Microsoft.

While you can still enable plugin support with the hidden control panel, I think you're in the minority here. Apple has not relented on their ban on Flash, Microsoft doesn't support plugins either in Metro mode IE 10 or in the upcoming Edge. Internet security firms are campaigning against Java applets, and even Adobe is more and more opting to provide native support for Flash in desktop browsers. I think Firefox is the only holdout that still uses the plugin version of Flash.
For some reason the workaround of enabling plugin support on the hidden flags panel didn't work for me. Maybe because I had uninstalled and reinstalled Silverlight.
The short answer on why the online tools suck is that the online tools are free and the staff at an RPG company are english majors, not programmers.

Kind of a bold move to make it harder to use Silverlight on Chrome. Amazon and Netflix both use it. Lot of confused people are going to hop browsers rather than figure that out. I hope they have a better reason that trying to hurt Microsoft, because that's the kind of thing that backfires when there's a ton of essentially identical free replacements out there. Especially with a resource hog like Chrome.
The main reason is that plugins are huge attack vectors. They are not sandboxed nearly as well as Javascript is, so an attacker can compromise a popular site (or even better, an ad network) and use a vulnerability in a popular plugin to run code on millions of home computers. In many cases, they don't even need to do an additional privilege escalation attack afterwards; the user's own privileges are more than enough to snatch credit card details, show ads, send spam or participate in DDOS attacks.
Not sure about Amazon, but Netflix reacted by dropping Silverlight and using a Chrome-compatible solution.
I quit to firefox a few weeks ago, when they decided that Unity wouldn't work in chrome anymore...

A few decades ago, everyone was up in arms against Microsoft because of their monopoly, but now everyone seems to be OK with the GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon)... Go figure...
You can enable the npapi flag and that sometimes helps to allow things to run also. Typing chrome://flags/#enable-npapi in the address bar takes you right to it.

Then from there chrome://plugins and check the "always allow" box next to any plug-in that you want to run.

It's been working so far here at work, anyway. We've started using Silverlight a lot more for various web portals, and our time-card site has used java since forever, so.... we might be moving to using firefox as our main browser anymore. theoretically we're still officially an IE9 shop, but most everyone uses Chrome anymore anyway.
I don't know why Google always gets a pass on this kind of stuff compared to the hate Microsoft gets. MS were always a pretty benevolent dictator as far as the consumer was concerned.
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