Google Chrome Browser Update Disables Unity Plugin

If you use Google’s web browser Chrome, you might notice that Unity games embedded in web pages no longer work as of the latest update. As they’ve planned to since 2013, Google have disabled support for the way the Unity plugin works. Unity 5 does support WebGL, which works without plugins, but for now that’ll leave a whole load of browser games not working. You can re-enable support temporarily, if you don’t mind digging in settings, or simply use a different browser.

It’s been a while since I had to fire up another browser to visit certain websites that wouldn’t work properly in mine. It’s like the browser wars all over again!

Let’s get technical! Unity’s plugin relies on ye olde Netscape Plug-in API, which Google say is old and busted. “NPAPI’s 90s-era architecture has become a leading cause of hangs, crashes, security incidents, and code complexity,” they explained in 2013 when announcing plans to remove it from Chrome. The API is also used by things like Silverlight and Java. They plan to remove NPAPI support entirely in September, and started towards that this week by disabling it with version 42 of Chrome.

As Robert Yang points out on Twitter, you can re-enable support for now by going into Chrome’s experimental setttings and looking for the ‘Enable NPAPI Mac, Windows’ setting. Come September, that option will be gone.

The latest version of Unity does support exporting games to WebGL, which runs natively in modern browsers. That’ll be the way for developers to go in future, but all those already-released browser games will be busted in Chrome. Still, this will give me reasons to fire up Internet Explorer again – it does always seem so happy to see me when I accidentally load it.

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  1. zproc says:

    I tried exporting to WebGL not long ago, one Unity Plugin build that would be like 3 or 5mb ends up being 100mb+ exported in WebGL. Not really great.

    • Hairball says:

      Also, the performance is garbage. I thought that it was performing badly on my 3 year old Macbook Air when I built it but it wasn’t much better on my desktop. (it was a super simple project using 2D sprites so not exactly taxing)

      • Hairball says:

        Maybe writing javascript might yield better performance but I’d really rather not be writing javascript

        • ScrapCupcake says:

          Highly unlikely. Unity Javascript isn’t browser javascript; they have separate runtimes and libraries, and unity adds a fair few odd semantics for loading libraries etc, so I’m 99% sure that whatever mono transpiling is being done to get C# or Boo to work in the browser is being done equally on the javascript code.

          I’m honestly really disappointed in google on this one. I understand their reasons to a point, but in all seriousness, they should have worked harder with people like Unity and Microsoft to give them another, safer way to accomplish the same thing in chrome; native extensions aren’t going to go away just because you remove the most common API for them, so why not do more to promote an alternative?

  2. GallonOfAlan says:

    They’re on a bit of a crusade with shitcanning NPAPI client-side plugins. Java and Silverlight being the main ones.

    • Premium User Badge

      shoptroll says:

      Typical Google. They also gutted support for RSS feeds a few years ago because they no longer saw a need for it.

      • Fazer says:

        RSS feeds work now and have for a long time in Chrome, so I don’t know what you are talking about.

        • puppybeard says:

          I’d guess they were referring to Google Reader, for reading rss feeds.

    • Cockie says:

      Yep. Chrome for Linux lost java support already a year ago.
      Linux users get to live in the future!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Google can’t be terrible all the time.

      Die, Java. Die in a fire. Your undead corpse has been shambling around for far, far too long.

      • frightlever says:

        Minecraft no longer requires Java to be installed discretely (it (ie the Microsoft version of Java, I assume) comes as part of the download), which is pretty much the only reason most people still have Java installed, I assume.

      • joa says:

        Java is a bit crufty but I’d choose it any day over the latest hacked-up-over-a-weekend hipster framework language du jour.

      • ThatDuck says:

        Have fun with Android then. I feel like Java gets a far worse rap than it deserves.

  3. Cinek says:

    I refuse using Google SpyGlass Chrome. Sorry, but I like my privacy too much.

    • baozi says:

      I dislike that googly software (or at least Chrome; Google Earth used to, as well) comes with a mandatory updater background process that installs updates without asking and which you can’t remove without some tinkering. Just seems a bit shady.

      But in any case, I prefer downloading unity games instead of running them in a browser

      • Premium User Badge

        yhancik says:

        While it’s always good to remain vigilant, it’s not pure shadiness. There are many users who favour that exact behaviour, who find updates confusing or annoying, and skip them for the wrong reasons. So, sadly, invisible auto-updates is the best way to ensure that as many people as possible have the same, latest version. I remember there was a Mozilla(-related) post on the topic, I think when Firefox switched to Rapid Release. Can’t find it back right now.

    • Crafter says:

      doesn’t this change also apply to chromium ?

  4. wraithgr says:

    Here I was thinking that it’s incumbent on the browser to display pages properly, instead of pages having to comply to the browser’s requirements…
    Oh well, we had a good run with chrome… Let’s kick off the debate/flame by asking what the next-lighter browser is…

    • jalf says:

      All of them, basically.

      Chrome is a *huge* memory hog.

      Both IE and Firefox are very lightweight compared to that.

      • 2late2die says:

        That. I switched back to Firefox more than a year ago and haven’t looked back. Every once in a while I load up Chrome and it’s just plain slower – I don’t know what the hell they’re doing with it, but it ain’t what it used to be. Oh and while for personal use I switched more than a year ago, at work I kept using it as the main browser for another several months and youtube related crashes and bugginess were plentiful and persistent. I still get an occasional plugin crash in Firefox, but in comparison to Chrome it happens once in a blue moon.

        • qrter says:

          Same here. Chrome is very light, if you don’t mind experiencing the web in its barest form possible.. start adding a couple of plugins and extensions and the whole thing balloons.

          I used Chrome for about half a year, then switched back to Firefox.

        • The_Absurd_Man says:

          After a recent new build I switched back to Mozilla. Don’t know I didn’t do it earlier. I used to have to reboot after long sessions in Chrome, seems so ridiculous that I put up with it for so long. Curious to how Spartan will be.

    • Cockie says:

      Midori is going to be all the rage, I’m calling it now

    • lokimotive says:

      “Here I was thinking that it’s incumbent on the browser to display pages properly, instead of pages having to comply to the browser’s requirements…”

      Well, honestly, it’s kind of a bit of both, isn’t it? Creators need to understand the capabilities of different browsers to make their webpage as accessible as possible, and browser creators need to understand new standards and trends so they can integrate them to keep both web designers and users happy. But, for Unity, this is another wrinkle in that it’s not a browser issue, per se, it’s a third party plug in issue. Now, Unity could say, hmm, let’s try to rebuild this plug in to make it compatible with Chrome, or Google could say, hey, there’s a lot of Unity content on the web that our browser can’t access, maybe we should consider making some native support for it in Chrome. Obviously, both of those possibilities are easier said than done, but I think it’s important to realize that there’s always a lot of push and pull between different parties on the web.

    • Derppy says:

      Browser vendors don’t want developers building content according to their “requirements”, they actively avoid it and the whole idea goes against the nature of open web.

      There’s Google, Mozilla, Opera, Safari and Microsoft developers in the World Wide Web Consortium and they collaborate to improve the specifications for many web technologies, including HTML5 and WebGL. These completely open specifications are what browsers implement and developers follow.

      The consortium of 400+ public and private organizations is ensuring the web is evolving in the right direction and there’s no exclusivity. Anyone should be able to start their own free browser that implements the specification if they so desire.

      Because of financial realities, developers can’t always follow the latest spec and there’s very old garbage around that is still updated no matter how bad practice it’s considered to be. Browser vendors have the responsibility to deprecate and stop supporting old garbage, because it’s often the only way to drive the web forward.

      Google is doing the right thing here and accelerating both the development of WebGL itself and it’s support in game engines. Unity web player is like Flash, Silverlight or Java in the browser, it completely ignores the entire point of W3C and creates a major security risk the browser vendors cannot control.

      • Derppy says:

        As a correction to the previous (no edit feature?), the WebGL spec itself is Khronos Group specification, but often referred in the W3C specs. Still, much like W3C the Khronos Group has a ton of organizations trying to create an open specification for everyone’s benefit.

      • Cinek says:

        You should become an amateur philosopher, or something. You really have a lot to say, but sadly most of it is total BS. I almost chocked laughing on “it completely ignores the entire point of W3C”, and other flowers in your write-up.

        • Rocketpilot says:

          I’m a professional web developer and nothing Derppy says is bullshit, a bit optimistic, perhaps. You, on the other hand…

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        gritz says:

        I reject the idea that the only way to “drive the web forward” is to flush its past down the toilet.

      • zillabunny says:

        you have GOT to be kidding me… imagine if someone told John Carmack to work within the restraints of the IBM consortium…

    • Kempston Wiggler says:


  5. Neurotic says:

    “Still, this will give me reasons to fire up Internet Explorer again – it does always seem so happy to see me when I accidentally load it.”

    :D :D :D

    • The_Absurd_Man says:

      And then it instantly wants to reattach itself like a desperate ex-girlfriend.

  6. st33dd says:

    Ah yeah, need to chime in on this as well – the “export for WebGL” option in Unity is a bit shit. A bit shit as in we have two computers in the office that refuse to run anything made with Unity’s WebGL exporter. On any browser. Some computers simply don’t like WebGL.

    Some projects also can’t run in WebGL because of performance issues on top of this. It’s Javascript – there’s a sharp limit on what you can expect.

    Yes you can re-enable NPAPI but it may simply come down to just using Firefox or Safari if you want to check out a web-Unity game.

    WebGL is probably the future, but currently, it’s pants. A lot of projects simply won’t work because they’re too ambitious, too hastily coded or just incompatible for some unknown reason.

    • jrodman says:

      FWIW, firefox is planning to kill off the NPAPI too, they’re just going to take longer.

      The plan for unity-in-browser is to compile to asm.js, which might work okay. Not really sure how it will play out in practice.

      It seems sure that someone could build a unity-for-NaCL for chrome, but i’m not running chrome no matter what, so I’d prefer unity didn’t waste their time with that.

  7. mandrill says:

    “Draw me like your French girls, Jack.”

  8. Faxmachinen says:

    I read that as

    “NPAPI’s 90s-era architecture has become a leading cause of hangs, crashes, security incidents, and code complexity,” they explained in 2013 when announcing plans to remove it from Chrome. The API has also caused things like Silverlight and Java.

  9. RaoulDuke says:

    Alice: If you think that “artwork” is nice you’ll be impressed to know that its not drawn art its just a frame from the tech demo [!] – how far Unity has come – it looks like flipping UE4 suddenly. Well, nearly.

  10. Asurmen says:

    Yet to see a reason to stop using IE tbh.

    • theirongiant says:

      said no web developers ever :)

      • LionsPhil says:

        Honestly, since 9, it finally stopped being a sick joke.

        It varies (it’ll tend to be a later adopter of the New Shiny, because the New Shiny tends to be Google just making stuff up and everyone else scrabbling to try to keep pace), but generally I’ve found sodding Chrome to be more likely to be That One Browser That Needs More Work these days.

      • Cinek says:

        I guess you are one of these guys who never seen IE past 6.0.

  11. hollowroom says:

    I’ve never played a Unity game in a browser anyway. Is this a thing?

    • Henke says:

      Oh my God man you have not LIVED

      here: link to

      • hollowroom says:

        Amusingly, of course, the first thing that happens when I go to that link is it tells me I need to install the Web Plugin for Unity.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Amazingly, yes, after everyone declare a War on the Flash Plugin. (What did they think would happen?)

      Which, amusingly, I think is getting a reprieve from this because Chrome interacts with it via some other API. See the penultimate paragraph of Ars’ coverage.

      • puppybeard says:

        Wasn’t that a load of bullshit. Worked in a marketing agency at the time and of course people wanted html5 web apps. Bearing in mind that these were flashy as hell, I had to call off the first effort after it became apparent that the “html5” would take 100 times longer to download, and run like absolute crap.

        5 or 6 years later and the Flash developer there still has a job!

  12. Penguin_Factory says:

    I haven’t been able to get the Unity plugin working on Chrome for close to a year. I download and install it, and when I try to run anything it just tells me it’s not installed. I’ve tried uninstalling chrome and downloading it again, to no effect.

    • Czrly says:

      Me too. I really don’t think this is news at all since the Unity Player has been broken in Chrome for a long, long time.

      • bjohndooh says:

        You need to re-enable NPAPI like the article says but on my end Unity still works just fine in Chrome Canary.

  13. Greg Wild says:

    It’ll force them to really drive WebGL home. Which can only be a good thing.

    • IonTichy says:

      Nah, better rely on yet another proprietary plugin to display things.\s
      I agree, it’s a good thing

  14. Frank says:

    I’m more bothered about losing silverlight. I haven’t played a unity browser game since Sarah’s Run years ago.

    • Gotem says:

      well, since Microsoft has left silverlight I think it doesn’t have much future anyway, hope the ones that use it for video on demand already have an alternative

      • jrodman says:

        There’s not much of an argument for plugins-for-video at a fundamental level. The browser can handle video itself for around the last 4-5 years. The only real reason for the plugins at this point is DRM.

  15. JackWeed says:

    This is so f***** up!!! I noticed it when Battlelog asked me to enable it again. I did and all was fine. A little while later I wanted to watch the new Star Wars trailer on Youtube and it simply didn’t work anymore (video stays black, no loading bar etc.). I deactivated it again and behold: video was playing.
    So now I have to switch it on and off depending on what I want to do? And what the f*** am I going to do when they completely remove it in September??? New browser I guess… Thanks a lot for this post, I thought I was the only one getting this bulls*** :(

  16. Sam says:

    Unity could have made a new plugin that works in Chrome. They could make their WebGL export be not-terrible (although it would be a monumental engineering task to get something close to parity with the other targets). They could even have unabandoned their Flash Stage3D export.

    They made the entirely rational choice to not do any of that and focus on prettier graphics and current-gen consoles. Now anyone who made their art with Unity has had it vanish from many people’s internet. Relying on proprietary software leads to bad news, etc., etc.

    • kevmscotland says:

      Same can be said for Unity’s inability to actually update Monodevelop.

  17. edwardh says:

    Google has gone crazy with their Chrome updates lately… this isn’t the only case where they screwed something up.
    Personally, I use SeaMonkey (basically a Firefox variation) and currently, I’d probably also recommend Firefox to other people, be it desktop or mobile. Even though I wouldn’t have in the past.

  18. Sunjammer says:

    I love it when engineers in one place get to make strategic decisions for the entire globe. It’s totally fair and balanced. Backwards compatibility is TRULY BACKWARDS AS THEY SAY HAR HAR

    • jrodman says:

      Well, to be fair, Google makes it totally possible for you to fork chromium in its current state if you can find enough people interested in maintaining the fork. So it’s not an overriding decision by fiat like a typical commercial software supplier.

      That said, the goals of engineers and users do sometimes diverge in a way that’s not really possible for the users to address. There’s a totally legit goal here which is to make browsers more stable and secure. The strategy to implement changes for Chrome is typically without a lot of user control though, which exacerbates the goal divergences.

      If you take it a bit more broadly though, yes Silicon Valley is killing off the NPAPI, and thus all the software built upon it. In a way this is gross, but no more gross than killing off support for powerPC binaries in OS X for example.

  19. DrManhatten says:

    Is this really newsworthy? As nobody with a sane mind would use Chrome their EULA is a minefield of kiss away your privacy.

    • ankh says:

      Do you really think you are so fucking important or what you do is so fucking interesting that GOOGLE would care? Like they are going to tie your name to your information and release it to the world like some kind of super villain?

      • Cederic says:

        Well.. yes.

        Otherwise they wouldn’t need all the crap in the EULA.

  20. fuzziest says:

    This sucks because the export to WebGL option is still broken. Considering the glacial speed of Unity development I doubt it’ll become production ready till fall. Most of my projects won’t compile to WebGL properly and almost none of them run correctly in the browser. Caught in the middle between Google’s questionable decisions and Unity’s incompetence (yes. yes I should just be a grog and code everything from scratch).

  21. ashblue says:

    Was depressing for our team since we’re still waiting on some bug fixes for Unity’s WebGL export. Would have been nice if Chrome waited a few more months before pulling the plug.

  22. Nereus says:

    The day Google broke flash playback on my Android device was the day I wish I’d just gotten a Microsoft tablet.

    We get it, you want HTML 5. But I can’t enjoy half the web because you won’t let me. I basically don’t bother using youtube anymore, which is funny given it’s Google’s own website, because I can’t. Maybe 1/5 videos will load in HTML, the rest just don’t.

    Google need to quit their crusade for better web based tech or they will find themselves left behind by more customisable options.

    • drewski says:

      Google, oddly, don’t want you to use the internet at all on mobile devices. They want you to use apps.

  23. April March says:

    Just in time for Ludum Dare, too. Not even Mustachio Spacehunk can save us now.

  24. racccoon says:

    Firefox is an open source, google took advantage of this revamped the code a little and made their own.
    I do not see why people believe this to great!
    I’m a die hard netscape/firefox user and always will be one, I do not see the point in a copy.
    Netscape/Firefox made GOOGLE for what it is today! goggle decided to ignore the role Firefox played in there popularity & knife Firefox in the back.
    The same thing is going on exactly with Steam but on a far greater scale! Steam is creating a full database of PC players, in the process of this accumulation they are hoping to steal them for their own console crappy pc box thing. the two are plain THIEVES… simple really.

    • jrodman says:

      Chrome has no code relationship with Firefox.

      Just FYI.

  25. AdrianWerner says:

    Chrome being garbage isn’t exactly news, this is just newest example of that. Not only it’s memory hog, but it also has a heart attack whenever pages have more then few animated gifs.

    • Caiman says:

      They fixed the animated gif thing a couple of weeks ago, now entire gif threads on forums work again.