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 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

Random Agent Spoofer

A good trick to watch Flash videos is to install the addon Random Agent Spoofer, which allows you to pretend that you're using Android, among others. Many websites provide HTML5 video alternatives, but only if you're on mobile. So if you trick them into thinking your IceCat is actually Android, you'll be able to see HTML5/Webm videos.

It's a simple solution that works well on many websites.


YouTube can also be viewed and searched for using SMTube. In order to install it just run the following commands:

$sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rvm/smplayer
$sudo apt-get update
$sudo apt-get install smtube
In SMTube's preferences you can select preferred format and preferred video player (which will be used to play back the video file).


youtube-dl-gui is a program that can be used to download flash videos from websites and despite its name you can use it on just about any website not just youtube to install youtube-dl on trisquel run this command:
sudo apt-get install git make python python-gtk2-dev && git clone && cd youtube-dl-gui/ && sudo python install && sudo rm -r ../youtube-dl-gui
downloading a video with youtube-dl-gui


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

Video WithOut Flash

Video WithOut Flash is an add-on to Firefox and derived Web browsers such as Abrowser. It supports Blip, HTML5, Dailymotion, NicoNico, FC2 and ScreenWaveMedia.

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:


Watching a video on YouTube with Linterna Mágica

Watching a video on Vimeo. with Linterna Mágica

Watching a video on 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, as well.


For those wishing not to use Greasemonkey scripts or wanting a complementary solution, there is a Mozilla browser add-on called Unplug. Install Unplug by clicking on and be sure to select "always activate" from the preferences. To use Unplug, right click on a page containing media, such as that of a YouTube video, and select "Unplug" in the contextual menu. Unplug lists direct links to embedded audio and video media on the page. You can play any of them in the current tab, in a new tab, in a new window or in an external application, e.g., VLC.

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 is a Greasemonkey userscript similar to Linterna Mágica. More websites, in particular sites of TV channels, are supported through the additional installation of ViewTube+.

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

I suggest using ViewTube_GM and VLC to avoid some issues and be able to fast forward as described in the following forum post.

Or you can be smart and see it all later offline

Or you can be smart and install Download Flash and Video[1][2]. It has a free license: MPL2.0. And it just works. This way you save bandwidth too as you don't have to download the same thing twice.

[1] [2]

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.


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