Adobe revives Flash for Firefox on Linux after four-year lag

Updates will help keep Linux users secure, but Flash is still fading away.

Adobe just pulled a major about-face. After axing the NPAPI Flash plugin used by Firefox and other browsers on Linux in 2012, Adobe has decided to begin updating it again and to keep it updated after the previously announced 2017 end-of-life date.

Expect security improvements, not new features

The NPAPI version of Flash for Linux, used by Firefox and other browsers, has been stuck at version 11.2 since 2012. Adobe also axed its Adobe Reader and Adobe AIR software for Linux. Adobe’s been providing security updates for Flash since then, but promised it would stop doing so in 2017.

The PPAPI Flash plugin for Linux, which is included with Google Chrome, has been kept up to date with the latest features. But many browsers, such as Firefox, must use the NPAPI plugin instead of the PPAPI plugin.

Adobe just had a sudden change of heart and decided to update the NPAPI plugin for Linux. The NPAPI Flash plugin for Linux is about to catapult from version 11.2 to version 23 and will stay current with the other Flash plugins going forward. “We have done this significant change to improve security and provide additional mitigation to the Linux community,” reads Adobe’s blog post on the subject.

The NPAPI plugin won’t be killed in 2017, either. Adobe will keep its version in sync with the PPAPI plugin and the Windows and Mac plugins going forward, keeping it up to date with security.

Adobe still recommends the PPAPI plugin

It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. The NPAPI version of the Linux plugin won’t get all the same features as the other plugins. “Because this change is primarily a security initiative, some features (like GPU 3D acceleration and premium video DRM) will not be fully implemented,” according to Adobe.

“If you require this functionality, we recommend that you use the PPAPI version of Flash Player. That said, we believe that the new NPAPI build represents a significant step forward in functionality, stability, and security,” reads Adobe’s blog post.

Flash is going away, but not quite yet

This is a weird time for Adobe to make this decision. But it’s all about security—Adobe clearly doesn’t want a security nightmare on its hands, especially with the 2017 deadline for the end of security patches ahead of it. Adobe changed its mind, and that’s good for Linux browser security.

While Mozilla plans to remove support for NPAPI plugins from Firefox at the end of 2016, the Flash plugin is exempt. Firefox will begin blocking some Flash content by default, though—Flash is on its way out.

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