Why we love Firefox 42 and you should too

Nov. 6, 2015

This week Mozilla released the long-awaited Firefox 42 right on schedule, on Nov 3, and made our hearts sing. Here’s why if you use Firefox, you have a reason to be happy too: video streaming services now have a chance to offer HTML5 video playback without having to count on Flash for their Firefox-using visitors, too! This means better performance on each individual viewer’s station for 8.5% more people and none of the security issues related to using Flash. This is, all true for content whose providers have taken the opportunity to move to native HTML5 playback.

Wait, what?

With Firefox 42, Mozilla finally put their browser on the same level as Chrome, Internet Explorer 11+ (on Windows 8 or higher), Microsoft Edge, Safari and Opera in releasing support for media source extension (MSE), a W3C specification enabling advanced HTML5 video playback). Until now, they had partial MSE support for select few “whitelisted” websites such as YouTube, Netflix, and Dailymotion, which were able to offer native HTML5 playback even on Firefox. 

What we at Viblast had to do with our own HTML5 HLS player on Firefox was to offer Flash fallback. It was either this or no playback on Firefox at all. But now, times have changed, and for the better!

A little background

Viblast Player relies on MSE and some JavaScript magic to offer native HTML5 playback of HLS and MPEG-DASH - and, to date, we are among the very few players that can offer this. The W3C Media Source Extensions specification "extends HTMLMediaElement to allow JavaScript to generate media streams for playback." In other words, it is the specification that will play a crucial role in migrating away from Flash and toward HTML5 video playback.

Why so anti-Flash?

It’s all about viewer experience. Flash video playback uses up much more CPU and memory than pure HTML5. What’s more, Flash suffers from security vulnerabilities that expose viewers to privacy breaches. The most recent such incident happened this summer when Firefox even blocked Flash for a few days until the patch was ready. 

We are not alone in believing the future belongs to HTML5. A developer working on the upcoming HTML5 player of the major online game streaming service twitch.tv said on Reddit that the unoptimized version of the HTML5 player they are developing uses a third of the CPU and a fraction of the memory compared to their Flash player.

What is going to change

According to recent study by analyst Jan Ozer, Firefox currently holds over 8.5% of the browser market and was the only modern browser that did not have MSE support (until Nov 3). This means that services offering video content online are now much more likely to consider moving toward HTML5 playback and away from their Flash players. This is not something that will happen overnight, but the wheel is starting to turn.

If you are eager to precipitate this change and have a Flash player on your website that you want to quit using, visti our piece on how to move from Flash to native HTML5 HLS playback in one step

If you are a Firefox user who wants to enjoy better video experience online, what you can do is forward the above article to your favorite video streaming website that still has not made the move.

A change is going to come and we can be a part of it. Spread the word.

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