Play Videos Without Using Flash

What's Wrong with using Adobe Flash?

Adobe Flash is used to deliver many of the videos, advertisements, and browser-based games on the Web. Unfortunately, the .swf format and Adobe's official player are proprietary. But for those who value their freedoms, there are alternatives.

Free Formats

The use of free video formats on the web is the preferred method of playing video on the web. User adoption of free formats encourages their use by websites. Secondly, because they can be supported by Free Software natively they tend to perform better.

If you want to share a video, it would be better to do it on a GNU MediaGoblin instance, instead of YouTube or other centralized video-sharing websites.

There are two main free video formats suitable for use on the web:

  • Ogg Theora, is a video codec derived from On2's VP3 codec.
  • WebM, is a video codec that was freed by Google after its acquisition of On2.

Browser Support

Format Mozilla based browsers (e.g. Abrowser, GNU IceCat) Konqueror Epiphany
Ogg Version 3.5 and above Version 4.4 and above Version 2.2.8 and above
WebM Version 4.0 and above Yes Requires version of GStreamer that supports WebM

Flash Replacements

There are two actively developed free software Flash players:
  • Gnash, the GNU SWF player, which is being actively developed and relies on the gstreamer and ffmpeg backends to perform. It has good compatibility up to SWF 8 and 9.
  • Lightspark, a recent project that offers accelerated rendering using OpenGL shaders and good support for current Actionscript 3. It is currently not included in the Trisquel repos but can be easily obtained from Launchpad PPAs.

YouTube

YouTube is the one of the largest video sharing websites on the internet.

There are multiple methods of watching videos on YouTube without depending on Adobe Flash.

HTML5 and WebM

Use of the YouTube HTML5 player and the WebM format is the preferred method for watching video on the site. Google has committed its resources to converting YouTube's catalog to WebM. To do this two requirements must be met.
  • Use a browser that supports WebM (e.g. Abrowser or GNU IceCat version 4.0 or above).
  • Join the YouTube HTML 5 Beta (This may not be necessary anymore, because of plugins like Youtube All HTML5)

Videos that have been converted should play with the HTML5 player: YouTube_HTML5_webM_0.png

Gnash

The latest version of Gnash will play Flash videos on YouTube with good performance, but this solution requires nonfree JavaScript, and is not recommended.

Dailymotion

Dailymotion is another video sharing website. It offers an HTML5 player which supports Ogg Theora.

HTML5 and Ogg Theora

To view Ogg Theora videos in HTML5 on Dailymotion the user must:
  • Enable the HTML5 player with a supported browser.
  • View a trans-coded video (when available). Not all videos have been converted to Ogg Theora.

Watching a Dailymotion video with HTML5

Linterna Mágica

Linterna Mágica is a Greasemonkey userscript that aims to support many websites and browsers. It replaces Flash objects, so you can watch video with a browser video plugin.

There are some patterns common between video sharing and posting sites that Linterna Mágica is using, so it supports a lot of sites. In most cases it will work without modification. Some websites even have high definition support.

Supported browsers are:

  • Firefox & compatible browsers, such as Abrowser, GNU IceCat and IceWeasel.
  • Midori
  • Epiphany

Supported video plugins are:

  • Totem plugin
  • VLC plugin
  • Xine plugin

This is a short list of supported websites:

  • youtube.com
  • video.google.com
  • dailymotion.com
  • metacafe.com
  • vimeo.com
  • blip.tv

Watching a video on YouTube with Linterna Mágica

Watching a video on Vimeo. with Linterna Mágica

Watching a video on Blip.tv with Linterna Mágica

Youtube All HTML5

This is a greasemonkey script, similar to Linterna Magica, that forces Youtube's HTML player to render videos. It is believed to work with Vimeo, Daily Motion and Blip.tv, as well.

Unplug

For those wishing not to use Greasemonkey scripts, there's a Mozilla browser plugin called Unplug, that provides a context menu from which you can choose direct links to embedded audio and video media on any page. Install Unplug by selecting it from the 'plug-ins' tab on your Mozilla browser's 'add-ons manager'. Be sure to select 'always activate' from the preferences. To use Unplug, visit a page containing media, such as that of a YouTube video, and select unplug from the browser's 'tools' menu. You can play your media in the current window, a new tab, the current tab, or an external application. For best results, I recommend using the 'copy link', option and pasting the link into a command line, where I launch VLC media player.

Disabling Gnash Plugin

To disable the browser plugin for Gnash, in a Mozilla browser, visit the add-ons manager, and select the Plugins page. Next to the plugin's description, select "never activate" in the control labeled 'when this plugin activates'. This does not remove the Gnash application from your system. ~~~~

ViewTube

ViewTube is a Greasemonkey userscript similar to Linterna Mágica. Users who cannot get Linterna Mágica to work or play sound should install this script.

Support for HD video exists, including 720p and 1080p.

Watching a YouTube video with ViewTube

Script works with Firefox based browsers (Abrowser, IceWeasel, IceCat etc), Epiphany and Midori.

Short list of ViewTube supported websites:

  • YouTube
  • Dailymotion
  • Vimeo
  • MetaCafe
  • IMDBVideos

How You Can Help

  • Use free alternatives to Flash whenever possible.
  • Contribute (financially or with code) to the development of free alternatives.
  • Let your friends know that most of the videos and games on the web rely on a single company's proprietary standard to function, and why this is bad for an free Internet.
  • If you develop online games, don't use Adobe Flash, and release the program under a free license.

Revisions

04, Mar 2010
AndrewT
15, Jun 2011
ivaylo
31, Oct 2012
ahj
13, Aug 2013
lloydsmart
05, Dec 2013
Dave_Hunt
06, Dec 2013
CentaurX
23, Dec 2013
SirGrant
05, Feb 2014
ssdclickofdeath
13, Feb 2014
GustavoCM
19, Mar 2014
arielenter
19, Mar 2014
lembas