Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Rant on Flash Video Players

Oddly enough, this doesn't apply to YouTube.  In fact, YouTube is used as an example of how to do things properly, which in itself is kind of sad.

In reality, this only applies to one site: The Escapist.  All I really care about on their site is Zero Punctuation.  So I go there to see what Yahtzee's been up to lately, and the player doesn't load.  Further inspection reveals they've got a new video player.  Fine, I go inspecting all the domains that NoScript is blocking to figure out what I now need to allow for it to work.  Except that before I fumbled around and found the solution, I clicked their handy link they provide for you to click if you can't get their new player working, and get this: THEY ACTUALLY TELL YOU THE DOMAINS YOU NEED TO ALLOW.  Most sites don't do that and it's just a fucking guessing game.  (side note, if you block scripts here, I've got noscript tags that tell you what you need to allow so everything will work, and functionality that I'm in control of gracefully degrades when scripts are blocked)

Then I read this page a bit more and find that the list of domains I need to allow is actually a part of a bigger paragraph where they deliver both the standard "plz disable adblock" and the guilt trip of "we needz teh money", and even go so far as to say "if our ads don't load the video might not load" to try to scare you into unblocking the ads.  Well, guess what.  Allowing script execution from the one domain in your list that I wasn't previously permitting to do so fixed your player's lack of loading.  Now that the player and the video I actually want to watch are both loading fine, I reveal your "player won't work if ads don't load" argument to be FUD.

So while I'm on this page, which is also their regular site FAQ, I see they've got an entire paragraph bitching at people for downloading their videos to watch in external players, saying that they'll ban you if you do it.  That's kind of cheeky.  It's all just a ruse to try and force you to watch their ads, anyway.  Besides, VPNs are cheap and IPs can be dynamic, so what can you really do?  Heck, I remember a long time ago where I couldn't watch 720p YouTube videos in their Flash player, but if I downloaded the video I could watch it just fine in Media Player Classic HomeCinema, which used my system's installed video decoder in place of whatever crap video decoder that Flash uses.

So, back to the video page.  I wondered whether their new video player would let me watch things in HD, but nope, they still have the HD video behind a paywall.  Which makes no fucking sense, given that the majority of successful video hosts provide HD video for free.  The bandwidth cost isn't really an applicable issue, because all the other successful sites have already set a precedent, and your lack of following that precedent stands out like a sore thumb.  It's kind of like how MediaFire was trying to force people to use their premium service just so they could log in via SSL, which is a completely free and open technology.  The only difference is, now HTTPS is forced on MediaFire for all members, but you're stuck watching 480p on The Escapist.

Seriously.  Taking what should be a standard free feature of any site that hosts videos and putting it behind a paywall is EXACTLY like charging people money for DLC where the content is already on the game disc.  Both in practice and in terms of ethics.

Besides, you have both ads and a premium membership.  Surely the revenue from the premium memberships eclipses that of the ad revenue.  Ads pay out in fractions of a cent per thousand views, and because the payout is so low and they're ashamed of it, you're usually under contract not to reveal the exact figure.  In comparison, premium memberships pay out far more consistently and on a much more regular and predictable basis.  Also, the argument I give anyone who considers ad blockers to be hurting the livelihood of anyone who depends on ad revenue: If you're able to do what you do full-time based on ad revenue, guess what?  You're doing that WITH PEOPLE BLOCKING ADS.  There will always be a portion of the population that will block ads, and no amount of whining, bitching, moaning, or complaining will ever be able to change that.

Furthermore, all your video content is available on your YouTube channel anyway, even if you do the douchebaggy thing of uploading it a week after it goes live on your site.  Not only that, but it's available in HD on YouTube.  So much for ever paying specifically for HD.

Now, I like to watch things fullscreen, so the next thing I did was click the fullscreen button.  Only to see that it uses browser fullscreen rather than Flash fullscreen.  What's the difference?  One is managed by the browser, and the other creates an entirely new window where the video player now resides.  It wouldn't be that much of an issue, but I run All-In One Sidebar in Firefox, and when an element goes fullscreen within Firefox, its one pixel of space where I can hover or click to reveal it is still there on the left side of the screen.  If you're already using Flash to deliver your videos, go ahead and just use Flash's fullscreen functionality.

So at this point, I'm convinced that The Escapist is just stuck in the past when it comes to their content delivery.

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