Flash still smashed but Chrome’s canary sings sweet tune

On Tuesday I wrote about a problem with Google Chrome not (consistently) displaying Flash content since an upgrade to version 10. We don’t have a confirmed diagnosis or a cure, but we do have something of a workaround.

Thanks to everyone who replied — there are certainly plenty of us experiencing the same problem — and thanks also for keeping the comments and discussion positive rather than descending into a browser vs browser flame war.

And to those of you who noted the article was immediately preceded by a very positive piece about Firefox 4, that was a purely unintentional piece of scheduling!

Meanwhile at Google’s end, the cause of the problem is getting a little clearer. Firstly, the company believes the problem was triggered not solely by the Chrome upgrade, but rather a change in the latest edition of Flash (10.2). Google says it’s decided not to roll back the version of the player used in Chrome because the previous edition is known to contain security flaws. It says trying to fix the current problem is more efficient than attempting to roll back Flash while keeping the security fixes in places.

Secondly there may be a specific issue with YouTube that causes problems with a Flash 10.2 feature known as hardware accelerated playback, which passes off some of the processing work to the graphic card where possible.

As for the workaround, many users have reported few if any Flash problems when using Chrome’s Canary Build.

What’s Canary? In effect it’s a preview edition of the next update to Chrome itself. The name comes from the use of canaries in mining: the bird acted as an early warning system as it would show the effects of a gas leak before it became noticeable to the miners. In the case of Chrome, it’s designed as a way to test updates in a practical manner.

Unlike beta and development editions, the Canary build (which is Windows only) can only be installed alongside a main version of Chrome, rather than in its place, meaning it can’t be the default browser. It carries a separate icon to avoid confusion, with the red, green and yellow circle entirely in yellow.

It is possible to copy across bookmarks and other user settings from your main version of Chrome, though you may need to add your extensions again manually.

As you’d expect, the Canary build is inherently unstable, so it’s more of a way to access forthcoming features, and in this case, as a workaround.

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