Lousy Streaming Video in Firefox? Don’t Blame the Browser.

So you’re trying to watch an old Star Trek episode on the site using (2 or 3) but much to your dismay you find that the video is choppy and dropping frames, ruining your plan to go where no man has gone before. You also might realize that suddenly your faithful old single core processor that’s kept it’s cool through everything you two have been through has suddenly come down with a bad case of heat stroke. Well, if you had checked your task manager (in Windows that is) you would have seen that Firefox.exe was running your CPU at 99% while playing the video which would explain why all your PC’s fans now sound like the engines of a WWII B29 Super Fortress running at full bore. Bloody Firefox, you say? Internet Explorer 7.0/8.0 plays the video just fine?

Don’t blame the browser.

Firefox doesn’t stream videos…the Shockwave Flash plugin does and that particular plugin for Firefox made by has a problem. For those of you who don’t know, Adobe makes 2 different Shockwave Flash plugins. One for IE and one for Firefox which is also the same plugin that Opera uses and if the streaming video you’re trying to view in Firefox is causing all sorts of problems attempting to view the same video using Opera will produce the same results.

What the exact problem within the Flash plugin for Firefox actually is I can’t tell you, I’m not a programmer. But the bottom line is that it has to be fixed. It’s simply not good enough anymore to simply shrug our shoulders and say well, it’s been like that for 3-4 years now so why bother? Here’s a good reason posted by one member of the Mozillazine Forums in response to someone else’s question; “Why bother?”:

Because Adobe’s grand long-term strategy is for Flash to become a legitimate platform (I, for one, hope that this strategy crashes and burns, but that’s another issue) and severe performance issues like this aren’t very conducive to that goal? And also because there have been a few instances in the past when they did care (for example, this one).

Here’s another reason:

Firefox 3 has basically been rebuilt from the ground up and the results of that overhaul are obvious and plentiful. Firefox 3 is a real honey of a browser. It’s light, fast, easy on the memory (finally) and full of new features and functions. The point I’m trying to make here is that if a heavily used plugin like the Flash plugin is providing terribly poor performance in Firefox 3, that plugin is going to stand out like it never did in Firefox 2. It’s like rebuilding a vintage Chevy V8 from the ground up and installing the old leaky fuel pump on it. So what’s the solution?

Feedback, feedback, feedback! I can’t stress that enough. Test it yourself. Those with dual core processors might have a smooth playback but will show around 70% CPU usage (IE delivers the same video at approximately 14%). Here’s what you do (Windows users only. Sorry, don’t have a Mac at present):

  • Using Firefox, head to this website and load up any single episode of any of the old classic TV shows (I like the old Star Trek personally). Don’t play the video yet.
  • Bring up your Task Manager and monitor Firefox.exe (just highlight it so you can see it easily).
  • Now start the video.
  • Check your Task Manager for CPU usage for Firefox.exe and note the results. (Single core PC’s might become somewhat unresponsive. Just pause or stop the playback to solve the problem).

What you should see is CPU usage peaking at approximately 99% for a fairly recent, single core processor and around 70% for dual core processors. Video playback in PC’s with a single core processor should be choppy and erratic plus Windows may become a bit unresponsive. Dual core PC’s should see smooth playback but a heavy load on the processor (around 70%). Once you’ve seen the results for yourselves, now comes the feedback.

Navigate yourself to the support department at Adobe, Shockwave Flash division and fill out this feedback form on what you saw. Make sure you select Firefox and Flash or Shockwave from the drop down menus provided in the form (the plugin is actually called Shockwave Flash but since that isn’t a selection…). Be brief but concise in your description of the steps of your testing and the results you saw and above all–be professional! If you wish to see this problem fixed then don’t get loose on your feedback. I guarantee they won’t bother with it.

Caution: Submit only one feedback please and if you don’t do the test, don’t submit any feedback meaning; don’t just take my word for it. We’re not trying to flood Adobe with this, just get their hopefully positive attention. They’re (Adobe) probably going to yell at me for this anyway so please don’t make it worse. :P

Those of you with blogs can of course post about this if you wish.

That’s it. And just so everyone understands, this post is an effort to get something that needs to be fixed, fixed. It’s not an attack on the good folks at Adobe in any way shape or form. The bottom line here is that Firefox 3 is our browser. User feedback has driven a very large portion of it’s development so far (yes…it has) and even though Mozilla can’t help the performance of Adobe’s plugin, we, the users, can. If you want something fixed…make some (reasonably productive) noise about it.

Note: I’ll most likely call for a halt to this within the next day or so. It’s bad form to keep submitting the same feedback about the same problem over and over again even if it’s by different users.

Comments

Lousy Streaming Video in Firefox? Don’t Blame the Browser. — 9 Comments

  1. Force of habit keeps me with I.Explorer, even when Firefox is an option on other computers. My dad always growls when I use the former as he seems to be a true Firefox convert. Then again he uses these things for bigger purposes than I do. I just think the loyalty is kind of funny!

    I didn’t know you were a cabby in your past life!! I could’ve done with snow tyres yesterday… we had a mental flash-flood of hailstones with some pretty impressive lightning- very weird weather.

    Mind you, the thunder cleared up the atmosphere nice, for today it feels like July!! I love freaky Irish weather.

    Sorry, got off the point somewhat.

  2. Hi K8,

    Sorry for the delay here.

    Wait until Firefox 3 comes out and give it a spin. It won’t melt down your IE despite rumors to the contrary. Download the AdBlock Plus extension when you do and see if that doesn’t brighten up your browsing day a bit. I guarantee it will.

    Yup! I was a cabbie in the mountain division as we called it but don’t let that fool you. I made regular trips to Boston MA, Burlington VT, Manchester NH and a few others. The company itself had made more than one trip all the way down to Florida. Imagine taking a cab 1300 miles?

    Sounds like your weather is much like ours. Wait a minute and it will change. And don’t worry about being off topic…it’s allowed. :)

  3. Hi there, I’m a new convert to Firefox (and Opera now) and have been experiencing the same issues – video corruption on all flash streaming. It doesn’t happen with IE but then I no longer want to use IE! Was any progress made with this do you know?

    Best regards, Matt

    • Matt – Firefox 3.5 (former version 3.1) will improve on this somewhat by I found a decent improvement when I upgraded my video card to one that handled DirectX 9 (Windows XP Pro in my case) Making sure your video card or on-board video and your version of Windows uses the same version of DirectX. I switched from Windows to Ubuntu Linux (latest version) and I found that both Java script and Flash behaved much better in Firefox 3.0.* than it ever did in Windows XP. Either way, Firefox 3.5 will be out sometime this summer so you should see some improvement then.

  4. I’m really pissed off with Firefox. It worked beautifully until a couple of weeks ago when it ran slow and kept Not Responding. One of the menus told me it was updating itself (bloody rude, why don’t they ask permission?). Anyway, it hasn’t worked since – can’t get the Adobe flash bit to behave itself (I’ve always thought of ‘adobe’ as a synonym for ‘doesn’t work’). Does anyone know if there’s another browser that allows downloading of streaming video as easily as Firefox does, er, did? Thanks

  5. Even though so many rave about Firefox, I’ve always thought the browser sucked A$$ (fonts look grainy and the browser seems S-L-O-W) but after creating a supercool database-driven dynamic mp3 player that works like a charm in Safari, IE, and Chrome….but chokes like hell in firefox, I hate firef*ck even more than ever. So frustrating. What a joke of a browser.

  6. I dumped firefox for a while and reinstalled it to see if it now works. Not only does it not work but it now has ‘personas’ – nursery school type daubs obscuring and cluttering the screen. The sign of program writers who have run out of ideas. It’s off my computer again.

  7. 2012: Firefox 11, Windows Vista, Dual Core, DirectX 11, Radeon HD5800 and it’s still jerky… not always, but occasionally on larger videos. However, holding the mouse button down on the time slider of the video causes it to play smoothly! But holding or rigging the mouse button for the duration of a two hour film is not entirely practical.

    • Raul – exactly – I have held the button down an entinre movie to get through it – ARGH! I know my computer can do it – what the heck does the clicker halt or do?

      I have tried emptying caches mid stream, rebooting firefox, chaning stream sites, and disconnecting my macbook from teh router and reestablishing. Sometimes so of these things work – but not often enough for me to believe.