Rumor: Internet Explorer 10 Metro to Run Flash After All

The consumer preview of Windows 8 with no Flash support in IE 10 Metro.

Microsoft seems to have changed its mind about Adobe Flash and will include a bundled version of Flash with its upcoming Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 web browser. Previously Microsoft announced that the Metro version of IE 10 would run without plugins like Adobe Flash or even Microsoft’s own Silverlight.

The rumor of an about-face on Flash comes from leaked Windows 8 screenshots that have turned up on rumor sites WinUnleaked and WithinWindows. Microsoft declined to answer Webmonkey’s questions for this post, noting only that “Microsoft does not comment on rumors and speculation.”

Rumors and speculation though the conclusions may be, the screenshots tell the story and the story is simple: The latest developer builds include support for Flash in Metro IE 10.

To get around the “no plugins” policy for IE 10 Metro, Microsoft appears to have included the Flash runtime in the actual browser, meaning that it’s not technically a plugin. But even with the new plugin that’s not a plugin, don’t expect Flash to work everywhere. Instead, Metro IE 10′s Flash support looks more like a last-ditch effort to make sure that big-name legacy sites with popular content will work in the Metro version of IE 10.

Flash in Metro isn’t going to work everywhere, though. In fact, Microsoft will maintain a white-list of sites that can access the Flash player in Metro. Microsoft’s previously published Internet Explorer Compatibility View lists dozens of sites including Hulu, CNN, Amazon, Adobe Labs and other popular sites with older, Flash video. (Wired is on that list as well.)

It’s unclear how much of the leaked info represents a change in Microsoft’s policy toward HTML5 video and web standards. Historically, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to maintain backward compatibility and it may be that dropping Flash entirely was simply too much for the company to stomach all at once. Also bear in mind that these leaked screenshots are of early builds and things may well change considerably before the final version of Windows 8 is released.