Two days ago (as I’m writing this), I wrote an article about FlashBlock, an extension for Google Chrome that keeps Flash (and, optionally, Microsoft Silverlight), from automatically loading when you visit a website. It’s a great extension that allows the user to control when, or even if, a plug-in loads. This means no more flash ads, no more automatically playing YouTube videos, no more loud music coming from a plug-in you can’t find because it’s down at the bottom of the website. If it’s made of Flash, then FlashBlock stops it from playing until you click to start it. Of course, it never fails… no more than two days after writing the article, what do I find out? That the most recent development version of Google Chrome now includes that feature! Here’s how to use it.
First, you’ll need the development version of Google Chrome. There are three versions available. The stable release version, the beta version (which includes a lot of new features but is also very stable), and the unstable development version, which gets all the new features, but can be unstable, although it’s usually pretty free of crashes. There is also a Canary build (as in: the canary down the mineshaft), but it is not tested before being built, and can contain major glitches, so only developers or other contributors should use this version (although it does include the plug-in blocking option). The first two (standard and beta versions), don’t include the option to block plug-ins, but the unstable development version does. To get this, go to the following address and install the development version for your computer platform (Mac, Windows or Linux):
Once you’ve downloaded this version (being sure to follow the instructions for backing up your user data first), you will be able to control the new options for blocking plug-ins. To access the preferences area, first click on the wrench icon in the toolbar, and navigate to the Preferences option. From here, click on the Under The Hood tab, then click the Content Settings button in the Privacy area. Now, click the Plug-ins option in the Features sidebar. The default option is set to run plug-ins automatically. Leaving it here would be the same as not having the feature, but what are the two other options?
The first option, click to play, is similar to how the FlashBlock extension works. When you load a page with a plug-in (YouTube is a good example), you won’t see the familiar YouTube video player, but a large gray area with a puzzle piece in the middle. Click anywhere in the gray area and the player will load and you can watch the video. The other option, to not allow any plug-ins, works the same, except you won’t be able to play the video by clicking on the puzzle piece. With this option, in fact, hovering over the gray area reveals “Plug-in not allowed” text.
You can still watch the video with this second option, but you’ll need to go up to the URL bar to do it. There is a white puzzle piece icon with a red “X” through it. Click that to see more options. The one that will allow you to watch whatever content is blocked is the “Always allow plug-ins on (website)” option. Choose this, and you can once again watch your videos, listen to your music, or use whatever plug-in was blocked.
There is also a whitelist function, although it isn’t called that. Choose the Manage Plug-In Blocking option, then on the window that appears, click the Exceptions button and you’ll be able to enter in any website where plug-ins will now be allowed.
And that’s how Google Chrome keeps unwanted content from loading automatically. After I saw the feature had been added, and tried it out for myself, I uninstalled the FlashBlock extension. Google Chrome does everything I want it to do as far as blocking plug-ins, and the FlashBlock extension seemed redundant. Google Chrome took care of my plug-in blocking needs, and hopefully this article showed you how to set it up to your liking.
One last note: you may want to keep an eye on plug-ins that you’ve installed manually, and expect to work, because this new plug-in blocking ability may block something you don’t plan on being blocked. A good example for me is the Google Talk plug-in that allows for making phone calls from Google Talk, from the Gmail pop-up. With Google Chrome’s plug-in blocking, the Gmail interface didn’t “see” that I had the Google Talk plug-in installed, and gave me no “click to unblock” option. I eventually needed to add Gmail to my list of sites where plug-ins were allowed, and that took care of the problem. But it isn’t just Flash videos that are blocked. Type “about:plugins” (without the quotes) into your URL bar to see all the installed plug-ins that will be affected by this new configuration option.