How to play all YouTube videos without Flash installed

Google has been offering a so called HTML5 trial on the video hosting site YouTube for some time now. Visitors of the site can join the trial to use HTML5's video capabilities instead of those made available by Adobe's Flash plugin. While that is great as it reduces the dependency on third party plugins, it may at the same time be limited to select videos depending on the browser that is being used.

The main reason here is missing support for one of the standards used by YouTube to make videos available. Mozilla Firefox for instance supports WebM but not h.264. While that is going to change soon, it does not seem to have an impact on the availability of videos on the site.

Firefox 22, currently available as a Nightly version, supports both h.264 and WebM, and even if you join the HTML5 Trial on YouTube, you will notice that some videos still won't play. The error message displayed on the site refers to a missing installation of Adobe Flash player. I can't say if YouTube is using browser identification to block the playback of videos, or if there is another reason for that right now.

I'd like to share with you an option to play all videos on YouTube without Adobe Flash plugin even if h.264 is not supported by the web browser.

All you need to do is point your browser to the following address: http://m.youtube.com/

youtube videos without flash screenshot

This is YouTube's mobile subdomain, and when you open it and the videos that are displayed on it, you will notice that they all play fine on the site even if you do not have Flash installed on your system.

Read also:  Screamer Radio 1.0 Internet Radio player

I have only tested this in the Firefox web browser - both Firefox 19 and 22 - and it worked in both after I joined the HTML5 trial on the site.



You can obviously try to play a video on the main version of the website first and if that is not working, you can switch to mobile by replacing the www. part of the address with m. to do so.

Please note that you need to actively switch to the desktop again as you can't replace the url the other way round. The easiest way to do so is to load the following url in the browser: http://www.youtube.com/?nomobile=1

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Responses to How to play all YouTube videos without Flash installed

  1. Dan February 26, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    Doesn't seem to work with Chrome. I don't think my system has any program that supports rtsp protocol.

  2. www.cyberkey.in February 26, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    THIS IS VERY GOOD TRICK !

  3. Justin February 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    I think what's happening is that in the HTML5 mode it is biased towards the WebM format if the browser supports both WebM and H.264. Since not all of the videos are encoded in WebM you end up resorting to Flash whereas most if not all of the videos are encoded in H.264. If you set the user agent to something like Internet Explorer 9 where only H.264 is supported, then in theory using the HTML5 mode should always play the H.264 video which should allow for greater availability. By doing that you shouldn't have to resort to the mobile version of the site to play videos without Flash.

    • Martin Brinkmann February 27, 2013 at 2:35 am #

      Justin I tried switching Firefox 22's user agent to Chrome, but videos would not play even though the browser supports both WebM and h.264.

      • Justin February 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

        I guess what I was saying before was kind of confusing. What I meant was that if the browser supports both WebM and H.264 it seems to always only try to play WebM video on YouTube. We would want to trick YouTube by using a user agent from an H.264 only browser like Safari or IE. In theory, that would have YouTube only try to play the video in H.264.

        Unfortunately, when I tried using the Safari or IE9 user agents in Chrome it still always defaulted to WebM. That kind of debunks my theory, but Chrome may just be stubborn about using WebM. I don't have the nightly Firefox set up so I can't try it there to see if the same thing happens. I suppose it's also possible that YouTube is coded to always prefer WebM over H.264 in which case we won't be able to trick it to use H.264 except to use the mobile version of the site which would only support H.264 anyway.

  4. A&L February 26, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I'm on the HTML5 Beta
    FF 19
    but it won't open any videos
    http://i.imgur.com/95z7vLx.png

    • Justin February 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

      You need to be using the nightly test Firefox release.

    • Martin Brinkmann February 27, 2013 at 2:28 am #

      Can you try deleting all YouTube related cookies and then try again to open the mobile site? Also, try using the user agent switcher first before you open the mobile site.

  5. sanjeev February 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    doesn't work at all with me on FF and IE.... no video works in html 5 and with given mobile address

    • Martin Brinkmann February 27, 2013 at 2:24 am #

      Do you get an interface that looks like that on the screenshot?

    • Justin February 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      The HTML5 video works fine for me in IE, but all I did was enable the HTML5 trial linked to in the first sentence of the article and didn't bother with the mobile site. If the YouTube HTML5 isn't working for you, then you might want to check and make sure that you don't have some security policy blocking the cookie from being set or deleting existing YouTube cookies and try joining the HTML5 trial again.

  6. :? February 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    http://m.youtube.com/ = yes
    join the HTML5 beta? = yes
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/override-user-agent/
    and switch to iPad as well. = yes...
    ...did it work? = no.

  7. Fran Correas February 27, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Will it play videos (specially music videos) that are restricted for viewings from mobile devices?

  8. Matias February 27, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    I get a 404 error on Opera

  9. Ken Saunders February 28, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    A cool restartless add-on (works for YouTube)
    Go-Mobile
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/go-mobile
    "The main purpose of this addon is to speed up web browsing by requesting the mobile version of the webpage.
    It is a quick and easy way to switch between mobile and regular browsing.
    It also gives webpages simpler userface. (Although not every website has a mobile version of their website.)"

    After clicking on the (Add-on Bar) button, you need to refresh the page to switch it to mobile, but the developer said that he'd be changing that so that the page reloads automatically when switching between mobile and desktop versions of site.

  10. Ken Saunders February 28, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    Actually having issues, sorry

  11. Gerd October 29, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    Hello,

    nice trick but it does not seem to work out of the box. Youtube detects that you are on a desktop system and automatically redirects you to its desktop pages.

    Kind regards,

    Gerd

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