Google Jumps Gun, Adds New Flash Player to Chrome

Google today jumped the gun by updating its Chrome browser with a new version of Flash Player that Adobe won't release until later today.

The Chrome update to version 11.0.696.68 -- the newest version of the "stable" build of the browser -- included Flash Player 10.3, an edition that Adobe has not officially shipped.

Adobe's latest version of Flash Player 10.3 was a "release candidate" that it posted for download April 20.

Chrome now reports that it's using Flash Player 10.3.181.14; the previous version of the browser was using Flash Player 10.2.154.28.

Google has packaged Flash Player with Chrome since April 2010, and rolled out a partial sandbox for the plug-in to help protect users against exploits two months ago. Chrome is the only browser that contains its own copy of Flash Player.

Flash Player 10.3 includes several new features, including one that lets users more easily clear the cache of "Local Shared Objects" (LSO), often called "Flash cookies," that are used by some sites to track users and monitor their online activities.

Adobe's new version lets users delete stored Flash cookies from within the browser; earlier editions made users steer to an online settings panel instead.

Other browsers, including Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) and IE9, and Mozilla's Firefox 4, will let users clear the LSO cache once they update Flash to version 10.3.

Google also patched a pair of security vulnerabilities -- both rated "high" -- in the latest version of Chrome. It did not pay out bounties for the bugs, however, as both were uncovered by Google's own security engineers .

Adobe confirmed that it plans to ship Flash Player 10.3 for users running browsers other than Chrome later on Thursday. When it does, the plug-in will be available for download from Adobe's site .

Chrome 11 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Google's Web site. Users already running the browser will be updated to the new version automatically.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

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