Era of third-party media plugins is over, OTT players offer best viewing experience on update browsers on the fly

In this day and age, there are a plethora of features provided by contemporary web browsers which come with interesting interfaces and add-ons. HTML5 video and audio, advanced JavaScript, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) styling all depend upon the user having the latest version of a web browser.

These modern browsers are a crucial link in the content delivery chain of video services, right from the content creator to the consumer. Unlike mobile apps, OTT players, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, stream content through web browsers on desktops, and sometimes even on mobile devices, which use HTML5-based Video DRM technology to attract more end users. A senior Netflix executive claimed in 2017 that about 15 percent of its audience accessed its library of video content on desktops.[1] It can be assumed that these users accessed the Netflix content web browsers.

These browsers depend on encrypted media extensions (EME) to allow the HTML5 video player to run streaming video services without the use of additional third-party media plugins, such as Adobe Flash Player, Java, QuickTime Player, or Microsoft Silverlight.

However, the difference between a great viewing experience and a patchy video delivery lies in how promptly the user updates their browser.

Updating Web Browsers

The finest browsers and progressive web apps support HTML5 video and audio codecs out of box. These browsers come with built-in packages and upgraded resource consumption along with attractive interfaces; also, their cache logic can improve browsing speed. The plugin ecosystem of modern browsers helps users amplify and customize playback.

Chrome is one of the fastest browsers for viewing video content. Top video streaming services support Chrome. Previous versions of Firefox required Silverlight plugin to play Netflix video until December 2015. Since then it has become more viewer friendly. But, this user-friendliness could not have come had users not updated their browser. Though a move away from Silverlight was a major update for Firefox, both OTT players and users need to be aware of the usefulness of such updates.

To ease matters for users, Chrome and Firefox offer auto-update features, which are enabled by default on Windows, though updates can be checked manually as well. Whereas, in browsers like Safari and Internet Explorer, the updates are included in the latest versions of their operating systems. Being a component of the Windows system updates, users should regularly update Windows. To have the latest version of Internet Explorer, users should regularly install the latest Windows updates from Microsoft. The Microsoft Edge browser is included in Windows 10 and so are its updates. It supports all HTML5 video and audio codecs. Again, to update the Edge browser, Windows needs to be updated periodically. Similarly, most Linux distributions offer browser updates through the repositories and personal package archives maintained by open-source communities.

Most websites, including the OTT players that allow content streaming in browsers, have shifted to HTML5 players, like Video.js, Shaka, Plyr, MediaElement.js, etc., to deliver their video and audio content. Though HTML5 standards make it easy to add media files by simply adding <video> and <audio> tags – as against  <embed> and <object> tags, which was the case earlier and more difficult to style – OTT players prefer to use media source extensions (MSEs) with HTML and JavaScript. MSEs allow adding a MediaSource object, which contains a link to the video asset, to JavaScript.

This method allows OTT players to offer a seamless video-viewing experience, without making any demands on viewers to download third-party extensions (More on How HTML5 solves the video player riddle for OTT platforms in web browsers). The only expectation a video-streaming site has of its users is an updated browser of their choice.

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