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Google Chrome consummates Adobe Flash marriage

Auto update sows What Jobs Hates™

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Google has released the latest stable build of its Chrome browser, and it integrates what Steve Jobs hates.

On May 30, in a none-to-subtle answer to the Flash-phobic Jobs, Mountain View announced that future versions of Chrome would bundle the Adobe plug-in, and began testing the setup in the Chrome developer channel. Less than a month later — after a very short beta period — this Chrome-Flash marriage has been consummated.

The new stable Chrome release — version 5.0.375.86 — also includes five security updates, three of them critical. One vuln was patched after Google was notified via its Chromium Security Reward program. Security researcher Rodrigo Marcos, of UK security outfit SECFORCE, was awarded $500 for fingering a stale pointer that turned up when Chrome processes X.509 user certificates.

Famously, Steve Jobs has banned Flash from both the iPhone and the iPad, going so far as to publicly attack the cross-platform technology in letter to world+dog. So Google has leapt to Adobe's defense, even though the other side of its mouth has repeatedly said it believes the future of the web is HTML5 and other web standards.

"Just when we thought that Google was the champion of HTML5 they turn around and partner with Adobe on Flash to ensure that the web remains a mess of proprietary brain damage," one netizen said in response to Google's original blog post announcing its Flashified Chrome.

Since then, Google has also announced that it will integrate a PDF reader with Chrome and it has long bundled its own Native Client plug-in, which runs native code inside the browser. All of these integrated plug-ins use a new plug-in architecture called NPAPI Pepper, an update to the Netscape Plug-in Application Programming Interface (NPAPI).

Google says its "working with" Mozilla on Pepper, but Mozilla has yet to confirm its involvement. Meanwhile, the open source outfit has made it quite clear that it has no intention of bundling Flash or a native code plug-in with Firefox. "We really believe in HTML, and this is where we want to focus," Mozilla vice president of products Jay Sullivan tells us.

Chrome 5.0.375.86 is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. You can find it here, but if you're already running Chrome, the browser will, yes, update automatically — without asking. Speaking this week at the net-performance-happy Velocity conference in Santa Clara, California, Google's Mike Belshe called this Chrome's "secret weapon", boasting that within seven days of Google releasing a new stable build, 98 per cent of Chrome users have been updated. "You have to design for it. You have to architect for it," he said. "But it allows developers to take advantage of new features immediately."

Google will also use Chrome's auto update to silently refresh Flash as new versions of the plug-in become available. And in the future, it will include Flash content in Chrome's "sandbox," which restricts the system privileges of Chrome's rendering engine in an effort to ward off attacks.

If you run Chrome and would prefer it weren't infested with Flash, you can disable the plug-in via the Preferences dialog. Choose Under the Hood > Content Settings > PlugIns > Disable Individual Plug-ins. You can also type ""about:plugins" into the Chrome addressearch bar. ®

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