As far as I can tell, Flash is an advertising delivery platform for the Web. This is why I have not installed the Flash player in my Firefox browser. It saves me (especially when combined with the Adblock Plus Firefox add-on) from a lot of obnoxious animations. And a few security vulnerabilities too, (this latest one is what prompted me to write this quick entry to help readers protect themselves while retaining the option to use Flash).
Despite all the hype about Flash, I very rarely run into a page that requires it for something useful. A few sites are Flash-only (mostly restaurant web sites from my experience, apparently restaurant owners are easy preys for incompetent Web site designers) and when I find one I usually take that as a sign that I am saving myself a lot of frustration by taking my business elsewhere.
Still, once a while I need to view a Flash applet. Ideally, I would like to have Flash installed but disabled, such that I can enable it for a given page with a single click. This doesn’t seem to be possible (my guess is that Adobe knows very well that Flash is mostly used in ways that are not welcomed by users and that they would likely disable it most of the time if given the option). So here is a convenient way to achieve the same effect:
While I have not installed the Flash player in Firefox, I have installed it in IE. I have also installed the IE Tab Firefox add-on which allows one to switch from the Firefox rendering engine to the IE rendering engine within a given Firefox tab. It can be configured to place a small icon in the status bar. Clicking on that icon switches the rendering engine, which means that suddenly the Flash player is enabled for the page you are looking at. One-click enable/disable as requested!
You can also configure IE Tab to automatically switch to IE rendering for some pre-configured sites. So if there are Flash-dependent sites that you use on a regular basis, just enter them there and the IE rendering engine will automatically be used whenever you are on those sites. Again, this all happens inside your Firefox tab, it doesn’t start a separate IE browser. Enjoy.
[UPDATED on 2007/12/24: I wrote this entry to try to help readers and it turns out I am the one who's getting helped after all. Many commenters pointed to the Flashblock firefox add-on which is designed specifically to do what I get done in a round-about way with IE Tab. I looked for such an add-on some time ago and didn't find it, which is why I devised the work-around. Thank you all for the info.]
[UPDATED 2008/5/14: Another reason to keep Flash turned off: Crossdomain.xml Invites Cross-site Mayhem.]
[UPDATED 2008/6/9: Looks like Flashblock can be circumvented (in a way that my more basic FF vs IE setup cannot). BTW, I closed comments on this entry because for some reason it was attracting a lot more comment spam than all the others combined. Email me (see about page) if you want to post a comment here.]