Google recently released a Chrome browser update that sparked some controversy in the game development world. Starting with Chrome 42, plugins that were previously considered standard are being disabled by default, due to the underlying NPAPI being phased out towards the end of the year. This change affects technologies such as Java, Silverlight, Unity3D as well as our own ShiVa Web Browser plugin.
Web Browser plugins – soon to be obsolete?
The ShiVa Web Player was one of the first plugins of its kind, delivering stunning graphics without installing the game onto your system. Playing a game directly inside your browser that did no use 2D Flash, but realtime hardware-accelerated 3D with all the features of a standalone game, was quite astonishing at a time when the internet was still ruled by the Microsoft Internet Explorer, Facebook was still a high school project and nobody had every seen an iPhone. That’s how old the underlying NPAPI actually is – we are talking Netscape days. Java, Silverlight, ShiVa and other popular technologies use this API to integrate into browsers, not just Chrome, but also Firefox, Safari, Opera and many others.
In September 2013, Google announced that they would phase out NPAPI support in Chrome during 2014 because “NPAPI’s 90s-era architecture has become a leading cause of hangs, crashes, security incidents, and code complexity”. Support for the “90s relic” was removed from the Linux version of Chrome in May 2014 (version 35), and only now the Windows and OS X versions of the browser receive the same treatment. Google plans to drop Chrome NPAPI support from all platforms in September 2015. Due to the considerable market share Chrome now enjoys, this comes almost like an ultimatum to our industry and to game developers who rely on plugin support for their web-based games. And we suspect that other browser manufacturers are soon to follow.
HTML5/WebGL conquers the Web
By default, the ShiVa Web Player plugin is blocked in Chrome 42. Your users will see “Download and Install” screen every time they visit a web site that uses our plugin. It is still possible to run all your NPAPI-based plugins in Chrome though, you just have to check the correct box in under chrome://flags, like so:
Alternatively, you could still use another browser like Firefox, Safari or Opera.
The future of the ShiVa Web Player plugin
We will continue to develop and support the ShiVa Web Player plugin for the foreseeable future. However, we believe the requirements for a stable web platform have changed during the last couple of years, and so we must change as well. The internet no longer happens exclusively at home on a desktop PC. The internet is everywhere – on your phone, in your glasses, on your laptop, in your video camera, on your game console, and now also in your watch. Our web player plugin will not much longer be able to satisfy the needs of the modern mobile customer. There are however standards that are shared across all those platforms, standards that are built right into the web browser and do not require any additional plugins. With HTML5/WebGL, your ShiVa 2.0 games can be truly cross-platform on the modern internet and reach your customers wherever they are on whatever device they are currently carrying. In the long run, this is where we want to go. The future is HTML5.