OS X Mavericks Preview: Safari Power Saver cuts Flash off at the knees

Nothing heats a Mac up (or drains its battery) faster than power-hungry Flash content running on a web site. Apple's finally giving Mac users the means to cut that off at the knees with a new technology in Mavericks called Safari Power Saver.

With the rise of HTML 5 and the dominance of the iPad as a web surfing tool, use of Adobe Flash is on the wane, but it's still used by thousands of sites. Apple's done its part to try to move progress forward by leaving Adobe Flash out of the default configuration of newly shipping Macs, leaving it to customers to decide if they want to enable the technology on their own systems. But once it's on, Adobe Flash can cause other issues on your Mac. Now Apple's doing something about it, thanks to Power Saver, a feature coming to Safari with OS X Mavericks' release.

Even the more conscientious Mac user is bound to miss it once in a while when a web page laden with Flash content loads. All of a sudden you're watching your battery meter drop rapidly and you notice the MacBook is running really hot, and oh, that noise - the fans have gone into high gear trying to get heat away from the motherboard.

Using a Flash blocker extension is one option - and it's one that many of us use quite successfully. But that leaves web pages looking ugly, with gaps or spaces where there should be content.

Apple's come up with a different solution for OS X Mavericks, and they're calling it Safari Power Saver. The new feature of Safari running on Mavericks wrests the Mac's CPU out of Flash's hands and puts it back in your control.

Here's how Apple describes{.nofollow} Safari Power Saver:

The new Safari Power Saver feature recognizes the difference between what you came to see and the stuff you probably didn’t. If the content is front and center it plays as usual. But if it’s off in the margins, Safari Power Saver pauses it. You’ll see a static preview, and it won’t run until you click to play it.

The way it works is simple: unless you're give it permission, Safari doesn't arbitrarily load Flash content on a web page. Instead, Safari displays a static preview with a graphic laid on top that says, "Click to Start Flash plug-in." Once you've told it to use Flash, Safari goes ahead and loads the content. Otherwise, the Flash content is paused.

The difference? Apple says it a Mac CPU running Safari Power Saver can use up to 35 percent less power than before.

We'd like to think we're living in a post-Flash world, and more and more that's the case. But some web vendors still stubbornly cling on to older technology because they're unable or unwilling to make the transition. Until the day we can finally drive a stake through this vampire's heart, Flash is something that many of us will have to live with. Safari Power Saver makes it a bit easier to deal with today's reality.

I'm really interested to hear from you: Do you currently use ad blocking software with Safari? Have you done away with Flash all together? Do you think that Safar Power Saver is going to help you? Please tell me in the comments.

Peter Cohen
  • At the knees? I'd like to cut Flash off at the waist.
    Like Darth Maul. (Oh crap. A Star Wars reference. Sorry.) But yeah, I use the ClickToFlash extension.
    Looking forward to Safari Power Saver.
  • I use AdBlock and Plugin customs. My family who work at Adobe aren't very happy with me!) My webpages are pleasantly still and quiet. But sometimes I need to turn them off to work on Flash heavy sites. I have been hoping for a menubar toggle to turn extensions on and off. MAybe this will fill the bill more elegantly
  • Coming up to 3-years Flash-free following John Gruber's instructions: http://daringfireball.net/2010/11/flash_free_and_cheating_with_google_ch...
    I use Safari's "Develop > Open Page With" menu to open page in Chrome, when I must to view Flash-based content. The other trick for use on YouTube is Safari's "Develop > User Agent > Safari … iPad, as YouTube still often assumes, since I'm on a desktop, that it will serve me the Flash version, even though it has an MP4 version for mobile devices. http://daringfireball.net/2010/11/masquerading_as_mobile_safari
  • Thanks for the tips!
  • I use click2flash. Power saver doesn't really block flash that well in my testing.
  • It's a beta. An early beta.
  • Yeah but I assume they've already got the main functionality working how they intended, save a few rare bugs. Besides it's not as early as you'd think any more, GM build is coming in one or two beta's time iirc.
  • what I noticed with Flash is that when the iOS devices came out and the issue was in the news there was a massive movement to "de-flash" web pages, but that since then it's slowed right down and even reversed. A lot of sites also seem to be auto-detecting and if it's iOS it shows you the Flash free page, but if its a desktop it shows you the Flash page.
  • It is a great implementation that will allow those unfamiliar with extensions to join the party.
  • Exactly. Right now you need to know enough to install AdBlocker, Click to Flash or another extension (or not install Flash to begin with). It's another example of how Apple is trying to make the user experience simpler for everyone with Mavericks.
  • An excellent move by Apple. As more and more iOS devices permeate the population....computers themselves will start to be replaced. Many older folks...my parents and in laws included, keep their Windows boxes around for 5-6 years. We just bought my parents an iMac for Christmas this past year...the in-laws this time around. Both have been enjoying the iPad and iPhone since release and their transition to the iMac (after 20 years on Windows) was almost seamless. Incredibly intuitive for them...especially with the magic track pad, and WOW! Have the 'issue and support' calls decreased to almost zero! Lol...I think over the next three to five years there will be a massive resurgence in 'Mac' sales. Laptops, iMacs, Airs...their displays. After folks' experiences with iOS, it'll lend itself to at least a serious look at a Mac when it comes time to buy that next home computer. And with the mini, the iMac, the simplicity of their design and aesthetics...as well as the pain free, almost non existent support and maintenance....said folks will be happy. That said, none of them will automatically go to safari preferences and select extensions and plug ins to overcome their Flash woes. Most wont realize those 'woes' even exist, nor the impact they have on the battery. Mavericks is doing some really cool stuff when it comes to energy consumption and with Haswell, efficiency will be even better. J
  • I use the Click To Flash plug in on my iMac and rarely have to click to watch something these days. They grey boxes don't annoy me, but the Flash updates that Adobe seems to push out every 30 days or so do get annoying!
  • My MacBook doesn't have Adobe Flash. I use Safari without Flash. I use Google Chrome if I have to use Flash.
  • A global click-to-play mechanism still suits me better. ClickToFlash does this well, plus its ability to replace Flash with HTML5 video is just superb.
  • I just a run a 25,000+ entry long Hosts file and that pretty much blocks the evil Flash (and most pop-ups) from even loading on my system.
  • I run the hosts file from someonewhocares.org/hosts/ with a load of extra things in it.
    I also use gas mask ( clockwise.ee/gasmask/ ) so I can switch hosts files with a click
  • I uninstalled Flash on my iMac & Macbook. I use Safari as my primary browser and use Chrome as my backup browser. If I need content that Safari won't show, I open it up in Chrome.
  • All the vitriol is generally well and good, except for this: FLASH is absolutely the ONLY video codec that supports alpha channel, which allows for transparent backgrounds. This frees up video from the "box" and allows characters to interact seamlessly with the architecture of the website. It can be elegant and fun. Here is a good example: www.speakingresults.com. You can say whatever you wish about our work, it may not be your cup of tea. But having the capability is good for the community, and video as an artform. Nothing else out there can replace it right now. I have been amazed that no-one has developed a modern codec with that capability in the 2 years since Apple declared war on Flash. I would embrace a replacement in an instant.
  • Ignorants... do you resolut think html5 animations are less power consumeable - the difference atm is that html5 cant go all in on animations like flash can... but in time you will see the very same problem with html5 as it gets heavier
  • Thank you! HTML5 will have even more issues, its less efficient, less secure. Most of the Apple pages promoting their newest hardware are 2-3 megs in size sans QT content. They rev up my macbook air just as much as flash. Like it or not if there were not ads and videos on sites you would not have all the free content you enjoy.
  • This move may come back to bite everyone in the butt. More and more agencies are shifting to creating ads in javascript, css and HTML. We will not be able to block these unless you disable javascript, they will be heavier downloads as Flash does a better job with text, compression and vector graphics, and there will be just as many open setIntervals as there were enterFrames or whatever the developer uses.
  • i only have a computer (macbook air) and i only have Facebook for ONE purpose and that is to play games on Facebook - guess what, the ones i play ALL USE FLASH AND ONLY FLASH, so this "protection feature" is killing me. i have to click to turn it on every time (beyond annoying!!!!). thanks for nothing.