Living Flash Free: Part 1

I’m trying to live Flash-free on my desktop. The first thing that didn’t work was Vimeo. I use Aurora, and so I set media.gstreamer.enabled to true, to turn on the gstreamer backend for the <video> tag. However, this still didn’t work. I tried installing more codec packs, but no luck. It turns out Ubuntu 13.10 comes with both gstreamer-1.0 and gstreamer-0.10, and Firefox only supports gstreamer-0.10. So I had to find the appropriate codec packs for 0.10 and install those also. Then, Vimeo worked (using H.264).

YouTube seems to work fine using WebM. :-) I do have the YouTube Flash to HTML5 addon installed so I don’t need to keep opting back in to the ‘trial’.

13 thoughts on “Living Flash Free: Part 1

  1. When you say YouTube works fine, what does that mean exactly? My experience has been that at least half of the YouTube videos I try to watch using HTML5 insist on using Flash. I tried the addon you mentioned but it doesn’t seem to make any extra videos work for me.

    Sometimes you can work around it by editing the URL to replace “watch?v=” with “embed/” to switch to the embedded player, but this doesn’t always work. Almost all VEVO music videos, for example, insist on the Flash player and don’t allow the embedded player.

    Google is always talking up HTML5 video but YouTube hasn’t demonstrated much commitment to delivering it on the desktop. The stupid thing is if you have H.264 enabled and you change your user agent to iPad, all the YouTube videos that insist on Flash play with issue (albeit in the iPad version of the site).

    • I guess I mean that the couple of videos I’ve tried so far work :-) I know not everything is available as WebM, although perhaps more are available as H.264? I don’t know. I don’t watch music videos…

      • “I know not everything is available as WebM, although perhaps more are available as H.264?”

        This was certainly true in the early days of WebM on YouTube but it doesn’t seem to be true any more. There can be a delay of a day or two before the transcode gets done, but my sense is that virtually all YouTube videos have a WebM version these days.

        The biggest issue is YouTube forcing Flash instead of HTML5. For videos where the “embed/” URL works it’s plain that YouTube isn’t forcing Flash usage because there’s no WebM version. You can see this if you have no H.264 support in Firefox, find a YouTube video that insists on Flash and then try the “embed/” URL. Example video (trailer for some war movie or something):

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmb33VPQXLA

        http://www.youtube.com/embed/dmb33VPQXLA

        The “normal” URL insists on Flash, the embed URL plays in the HTML5 player with WebM.

        I imagine YouTube is forcing Flash to be used on some videos because this is required for their advertising platform. That is, they’re doing it for business reasons rather than technical reasons.

        • That first URL initially presents a “you need a plugin” window, but it seems that (at least for me) YouTube detects its absence and switches to HTML5 playback once the page loads fully. So that first URL works for me, as well as the second one.

          • I forgot to say to disable the addon. The addon is switching to the embedded version for you after the Flash version fails. Videos that disallow the embedded player like this one (Beyonce music video):

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViwtNLUqkMY

            Still won’t work. However, you can make such videos work if you set your user agent to be an iPad. Bizarrely, YouTube will even play the WebM version in your “iPad”.

            • Interesting. What also works is installing Download YouTube Videos as MP4, which gives you a download link, and you can then open them in VLC or Totem. Or Firefox, for that matter, so it must be possible to enhance the addon to make these work too…

              • I have run into all your issues before. I recommend installing the YouTube Center addon (available on AMO as experimental extension or as a UserScript for Greasemonkey or Scriptish):
                https://github.com/YePpHa/YouTubeCenter/wiki

                Most importantely, this addon makes all YouTube videos work for me. It is actively maintained and has a lot of useful features (auto buffer but not play, default quality settings without logging in, player size, download links, etc.).

                Gerv, maybe try it out and pull some strings so it finally gets reviewed on AMO ;)?

  2. I’m hoping I’ll be able to go Flash free before too long, but there are still some sites which expect you to have it. Setting Flash to click to play definitely helps to quell the tide though.

    Good to see Youtube works well without Flash now. That would have been one serious sticking point if it didn’t. I wonder what’s stopping them from making the HTML5 player more widely used?

  3. While I was playing around with click-to-play I noticed that YouTube automatically showed me HTML5 video without explicitly opting in if I completely disabled Flash but if it was click-to-play then it preferred Flash.

    I actually opt in for a different reason – YouTube always displays the poster image if I’m opted in even if it then decides to switch to Flash to actually play the video.