July 17, 2014

Firefox 33 Starts Mandatory HTML5 Video on YouTube

Video driven by HTML5 rather than by Flash or similar systems has been coming on for quite some time now, and the best place to see that in action is with Google (News Alert) Chrome. The HTML5 player has been, at last report, a requirement for Chrome users hitting YouTube (NewsAlert) for some time now, though in the past, there was often a choice available for browsers wanting to use a different platform. That choice seems to have been removed by some reports, and further reports also suggest that Firefox 33 users no longer will have a choice in the matter.

Originally, the HTML5 player was opt-in; users had to actively switch from Flash to HTML5 if interested in putting it to use as the main player for YouTube. But now, the option appears to be out of the picture, and users of Chrome and Firefox 33 alike are going to HTML5. Right now, Firefox 33 or newer is pretty much limited to Firefox Nightly, but coming up, Firefox Aurora will remove the option as well. For those who stick to Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari—and Firefox users running version 32 or earlier, of course—the option to stay out of HTML5 video is still in play and will be for some time to come. But this removal of choice seems to be causing a bit of an issue in Firefox, particularly in terms of getting some videos to play on YouTube.

The big problem, according to reports, is that Firefox doesn't currently support Media Source (NewsAlert) Extensions (MSE) and H.264, and that lack of support can raise some issues, though the reports further suggest that, “…when possible…”, the site reverts to other playback options when HTML5 can't do the job due to a compatibility issue or the like. Those who are having a problem getting videos to play on YouTube may want to engage in a User Agent Switcher system or the like such that YouTube will detect Firefox 31 when it connects, thus taking the HTML5 question out of the equation altogether regardless of what version of Firefox is actually running. We have video on this and a variety of other subjects available at this link.

It's kind of an unsettling sign to see Google and Mozilla (NewsAlert) forcing the issue like this, especially given that HTML5 video isn't exactly ready for prime time just yet and users are actually looking into tools to fool YouTube into thinking a browser is older than it really is just to watch videos. That's a disturbing development by any stretch, and one that really should be looked into more closely. Sure, HTML5 video has a great opportunity to really improve experiences for users—particularly for mobile users who will be able to get in on the action on a largely platform-agnostic tool that will allow for equal viewing ease despite the operating system—but take the time to get it fully ready first such that measures like those mentioned previously aren't necessary.

HTML5 video might best be described as the future of video, but sometimes the future needs a little extra time to be fully realized into the present. This seems to be one of those times, and a little patience here should allow everyone better access to video online.

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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