FlashVideoReplacer Continues To Improve

We covered FlashVideoReplacer, a video add-on for Firefox, last year, but the new 2.x series offers several improvements. We look at what the new version offers and ask the developer a few questions.

[Update April 2 2011: Gonçalves got back in touch with me to tell me about the latest updates to FlashVideoReplacer. The updates are quite considerable so I've pasted his email to the end of this article. For example, the plugin now does not require Flash at all.]

As for how the add-on works, I got the information straight from Caio Gonçalves aka Lovinlinux, the developer:

When you visit a video page of a supported web site, the extension catches the direct link to the video embedded in the page, then removes the flash player object and inject a new object using the direct video link. As a result, the video is played with a different plugin on the original page, without the need to download it first. In order to work, the user needs a compatible plugin or standalone player, capable of playing at least mp4, which is the most common format. However, support for other formats like flv, mov, wmv and m4v is required for some videos.

This is a boon for Linux users as flash-based video players are normally comparatively inefficient on Linux, particularly for full-screen video playback. For FlashVideoReplacer to work, the user must have a working Flash plugin and a multimedia plugin browser installed. According to a survey recently carried out the the add-on site, Gecko Media Player, an MPlayer based plugin, is the most popular choice for Linux, although other plugins do work.

At the current time, the plugin supports video from YouTube, Vimeo, MetaCafe and a few adult orientated sites. Support for other sites, including Ustreme and Blip TV, is planned for version 2.03. As before, it's possible to disable the add on for some supported sites, but there is now an option to retain the user notifications when this is done.

The add on now offers a set of options that control how the intercepted video feed should be presented, and it's possible to have the video automatically open in a new window, a new tab, a stand-alone player or to prompt on a video-by-video basis. Facilities to download videos or to simply copy the URL of the video are hidden away in an addition to the standard Firefox context menu. This might allow some people to manage without a separate video downloading add-on, but it's worth noting that some of the dedicated add-ons have more facilities and support for a broader range of sites.


The quality options have been slightly changed and the “low” option will now seek a video of up to 480p, which was deemed more useful than fetching the lowest quality available. As with the previous release, it seems the seeking ahead only works on video that has been buffered. According to Gonçalves, this is out of his hands as the video plugin rather than his add-on that controls this. There are some facilities for handling embedded YouTube videos on sites other than YouTube, but these are still nascent, and more is promised in the long run.

At the current time the support is limited to a handful of sites, and I asked the developer about what the future held in this important area. He told me,

Version 2 has a codebase that focuses on compatibility and extensibility. In other words, it's easier to add more supported sites without causing incompatibilities on different operating systems. So, instead of fixing bugs, I can focus on making it work with more video hosting services. This is actually already happening. While version 1.0.x supported 3 mainstream sites, version 2.0.3 will support 8.

I consider every request I receive, however I cannot guarantee it will be implemented and I give priority to the most popular ones. For instance, sites that restrict access to residents of a specific location, like Hulu and iBBC are pushed to the end of my to-do list.


Sometimes, it's too complicated to support a site, because of DRM and video url obfuscation. Sites that use real-time streaming protocol (don't save files in the cache) cannot be supported with the current extension codebase.

I am also working on providing a new feature, capable of replacing YouTube and Vimeo videos embedded on third-party sites.


He also told us that browsers other than Firefox might be getting the benefit of FlashVideoReplacer:

An Opera version is under way and I will start working on a Chrome version after that. However, they won't be as feature rich as the Firefox version, due to the nature of the extension framework of those browsers.


Thanks go to Caio Gonçalves for answering my questions.

Gonçalves got in touch with me later to tell me about the latest updates. I've pasted most of the email below.

Hi Michael,

How are you doing?

Just wanted to let you know I have released version 2.1.5.

[snip]

This version brings some important updates. For instance, 
FlashVideoReplacer no longer requires flash plugin to be installed to work. Additionally, it is now compatible with the popular Flashbock extension. This means you can block flash content on supported sites using Flashblock to improve performance. FlashVideoReplacer will replace the Flashblock placeholder with it's own placeholder. There is also individual options to play the video automatically with each replacing method. So if  you are using Flashblock and the "Embedded" replacing method, you can 
watch the videos immediately, without additional clicks and without loading any flash on the page.

Another new feature available is the "Fallback Player". This option allows you to play the videos with flash, if the extension cannot detect a compatible plugin, but using a different flash player like Flowplayer or Neolao's player.

The extension preferences dialog has been redesigned and is less cluttered now.

Full Changelog

works without flash plugin installed
added compatibility with Flashblock extension
added option to play videos using Flowplayer or Neolao's player when the replacement plugin cannot handle the video format
added individual options to automatically load the video with each 
replacing method new improved options dialog
improved placeholder formatting added support for html5 beta program pages on Youtube (v 2.1.4)
fixed 720p detection on YouTube (v 2.1.3)
added silent download option (v 2.1.3)
added German translation (v 2.1.3)

Version 2.1.6 available with more enhancements :-)

Changelog

added support for downloads with DownThemAll!
added video preview image as background on YouTube, Vimeo and Ustream added hover effect to overlay elements toolbar icon changes dynamically to indicate supported sites split alerts into three categories (errors, video info and tips)

FlashVideoReplacer has its own section on the developer's website.

The FlashVideoReplacer add-on page on the Mozilla website.

______________________

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

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Fantastic!

John M's picture

Thank you, thank you, thank you! You've made me one happy camper. Works great on Vimeo. Will definitely be contributing to the development of this add-on.

I am really thankful to Caio

Jai ho's picture

I am really thankful to Caio Gonçalves as it is very useful to me... i am now able to view flash videos in youtube in full screen using this addon and save them instantly in mp4 format.... the other good thing is that this addon will allow to play webm videos in youtube, if one is available, without this addon ( you need to enable youtube html5 for this ) ... so i am now able to view 95 % of the videos without flash ... great work....

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