Firefox Broken Videos

Continuing with my rant about Firefox 43, a second broken feature is the inability to watch videos at youtube. Possibly other sites too. Not that I spend significant time watching videos, but when I do, at least I watch what I intend to watch. Not so with Firefox 43.

Chasing bugs like this means using a fresh profile, slowly and methodically toggling features until finding the cause. Then adjust my user.js file accordingly.

This time the clues were more obvious: the problem was related to viewing videos. The problem is caused by having the following settings:

user_pref("media.autoplay.enabled", false);

user_pref("media.gmp-gmpopenh264.enabled", false);

user_pref("media.gmp-provider.enabled", false);

Looks like the Firefox developers and the Google folks are trying to force users to play videos through HTML5 rather than Flash. That’s a good intention, yet most people are aware of how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I understand the need to enable certain settings to play HTML5, but unlike flash there is no “click to play” mechanism for HTML5.

Flash is a security nuisance but easily controlled in Firefox through the click-to-play feature. No noise, no crappy malvertising unless the user explicitly wants to watch a specific video.

Unlike the Flash plugin, the OpenH264 plugin does not support click-to-play or “Ask to Activate.” The underlying control is media.gmp-gmpopenh264.enabled. The OpenH264 plugin is either completely enabled or not accessible at all. Thus half the resolution to viewing HTML5 videos is to permanently enable the OpenH264 plugin.

Because the OpenH264 plugin does not support click-to-play or “Ask to Activate,” users also must enable media.autoplay.enabled. Autoplay is one of the great nuisances of the modern web.

With no click-to-play feature for HTML5, to view videos I now have to open the add-ons page, manually activate the OpenH264 plugin, open the about:config page, temporarily enable media.autoplay.enabled, watch the video, return to the about:config page to disable media.autoplay.enabled, return to the add-ons page to disable the OpenH264 addon. Of course, with my custom user.js I can keep the options disabled, but without click-to-play viewing videos is now a major nuisance.

Yet that is not all. I use NoScript to shield me from much of the modern web insanity. I now have to additionally allow all URLs through NoScript.

  • Permanently activate the OpenH264 plugin otherwise the plugin is not accessible.
  • Manually enable media.autoplay.enabled.
  • Temporarily or permanently allow all URLs.

The Firefox developers keep proving they pay little attention to users. Whoever is in charge at Mozilla should clean house of these self-serving developers and hire people who listen to users rather than continually focus only on their own whims.

No, Chrome is not an option. A piece of data mining monkey poop.

Broken. Always freaking broken. That is the nature of free software.

Post script: Looks like the problem might be fixed in 43.0.x. I updated to 43.0.3. I do not have to enable the OpenH264 plugin, toggle media.autoplay.enabled to true, or tinker with NoScript. Or perhaps the youtube monkeys fixed something on their end. Or both. I stand by summary: always freaking broken.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Firefox, General

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