back to article BBC joins war against Flash, launches beta HTML5 iPlayer

It may not be the definitive decision which propels humanity towards our inevitable end, but in a post on the Beeb's internet blog, James East, the Media Playout Product Manager, stated that his team is now confident they can "achieve the playback quality you'd expect from the BBC without using a third-party plugin." HTML5 has …

  1. Anonymous Coward

    About time...

    See above

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: About time...

      Agreed. Finally.

      I'll be very happy when I can use the BBC's websites using something other than a security hole propagation system.

      I've had flash uninstalled for my main PC for a few years now and, partly thanks to initially Apple then others, there are steadily less and less websites that rely on Flash.

      1. Quortney Fortensplibe
        Thumb Up

        Re: About time...

        "...I've had flash uninstalled for my main PC for a few years now and, partly thanks to initially Apple then others, there are steadily less and less websites that rely on Flash.."

        Same here. Must be going on for 5 years now. And I can't say I've missed it.

        "...the BBC is one of the few places I have to right click and run flash player nowadays..."

        It was always possible to access quite a lot of iPlayer stuff on your desktop comp anyway, by the simple expedient of changing the 'UserAgent' settings in your browser to self-identify as an iPad. This just makes it more straightforward.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: About time...

        I'll be very happy when I can use the BBC's websites using something other than a security hole propagation system.

        And what makes you think that the various media players used by the browsers aren't full of different holes? Any good player will try and offload the decoding to the GPU and this means that privilege escalation is always possible.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: About time...

          And what makes you think that the various media players used by the browsers aren't full of different holes? Any good player will try and offload the decoding to the GPU and this means that privilege escalation is always possible.

          There's no guarantee, of course, however the surface of attack is considerably smaller and rather importantly doesn't involve Adobe. When a plugin, e.g. one initially designed to provide nothing more than a simple augmentation of a website but extended mercilessly and thoughtlessly, has access to the entire client system and particularly when Adobe is involved any problem is much more likely to be serious compared to what's likely through a "simple" (hahaha) video decoder.

    2. lurker

      Re: About time...

      Came here to post the same, the BBC is one of the few places I have to right click and run flash player nowadays (have had it set to not auto-run for a couple of years).

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        @ lurker Re: About time...

        Yes, I have the same problem with many videos on this site.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: About time...

      I'd just like to say, Thank Fuck For That!!

      Finally I can completely ditch Flash. IPlayer was the only reason it was still on my machines.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have come here to bury Flash, not to praise him. The evil that software platforms do is remembered after their deaths.

    1. graeme leggett

      "The good is oft interred with their bones"

      The noble Brutus

      Hath told you CaesarFlash was ambitious:

      If it were so, it was a grievous fault;

      And grievously hath Caesar Flash answer'd it.

      Brutus says heit was ambitious;

      And Brutus is an honourable man.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ""The good is oft interred with their bones""

        You do realise, don't you, that your post is in favour of Flash? Mark Antony is shafting Brutus, not Caesar.

        1. graeme leggett

          Re: ""The good is oft interred with their bones""

          Just an excuse to quote Shakespeare.

          1. graeme leggett

            Re: ""The good is oft interred with their bones""

            Lest anyone forget the important bit in this bandying of the Bard - Brutus was doing the right thing by Rome in getting rid of a dictator, though the rest of the reading of the play can be that "no good comes of an evil act".

  3. Keef

    I wonder what it means for get_iplayer?

    I know some might not approve of get_iplayer, especially my former employer, but I do find it useful.

    I whole heartedly approve of the move away from flash but I am very selfish...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I wonder what it means for get_iplayer?

      I'm with you there, Keef. At present I often run get_iplayer on the laptop & then punt the file over the the Myth box to view on the big screen.

    2. phil dude

      Re: I wonder what it means for get_iplayer?

      I don't think this affects least I hope not!

      Generally, this (iplayer) is the reason I did not want HTML5 to have DRM b*llocks included.

      There will be those that find ways to exploit these hooks...


  4. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge


    The linked page says that it supports Firefox 41 on Windows and Mac OS, I'm browsing with Firefox 41 on Ubuntu 14.04 and get this message:

    "Will the beta work on my device?

    Sorry, we can't provide you with the HTML5 Player beta because your browser doesn't support Media Source Extensions. "

    So what's the difference between the same version of Firefox on these platforms? Me not understand :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confused!

      DRM control probably. DRM is the opposite of open source. Piracy prevented!

      So.... best just find a torrent and let them work through this DRM silliness. They are just getting rid of Flash, one step at a time. Remember they are old.

    2. sysconfig

      Re: Confused!

      Try Chromium instead of Firefox. Works like a charm on my FreeBSD desktop (Chromium 44). If it works here, I'm sure it works on your Ubuntu too. Firefox spits out the same for me, though.

    3. Hans 1 Silver badge

      Re: Confused!

      Change user agent ... ;-)

    4. James 29

      Re: Confused!

      Try about:config

      media.mediasource.whitelist disabled

      media.mediasource.youtubeonly disabled

      FF41 still has a whitelist of sites to expose MSE to (BBC should know better!)

      FF42 will remove this whitelist

      1. LloydW93

        Re: Confused!

        The BBC has been added to the whitelist in FF41 - that's why it works in Windows and OS X. The issue is that the *nix builds of FF do not have MP4 enabled by default - there's other flags in about:config you can twiddle for that.

    5. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Confused!

      Me too. Firefox 41.0 on Kubuntu 14.04 doesn't work, but Google Chrome on the same platform works flawlessly with the HTML5 beta iPlayer. According to Wikipedia, Firefox is lacking MSE support at all, so I'm not clear how Firefox/Windows can work, and I don't have a test platform for it.

  5. Fibbles

    FUD as far as the eye can see...

    Media source extensions are available on Linux, they're just usually disabled by default. You can enable them via the about:config page.

    1. MrWibble

      Re: FUD as far as the eye can see...

      Still doesn't work, after manually changing it, though.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Error 500 - Internal Error

    And lo, site yields the above, entire site down apparently. Coincidence?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Error 500 - Internal Error

      I haven't had that issue at all.

      Just saying.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Late to the party BBC !

    We know that when Flash first went HTML 5 was declared the future.

    Years forward, hows yours doing? A score of 555 tells us you made it to the future.

    1. Quortney Fortensplibe

      Re: Late to the party BBC !

      "...Years forward, hows yours doing? A score of 555 tells us you made it to the future..."

      Score | Browser

      526 | Chrome 44

      525 | Opera 31

      467 | Firefox 40

      402 | Edge

      396 | Safari 8.0

      Confirming my personal experience that [Google-taint aside], Chrome has now unseated Firefox as the browser of choice for when you want most stuff 'just to work'©

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Late to the party BBC !

        Chrome has now unseated Firefox as the browser of choice for when you want most stuff 'just to work'©

        I guess that 'just to work'© means not giving a toss about privacy or the rise of another browser monopoly and the evil that comes with it. Still, it's a free world, for now.

      2. John Gamble

        Re: Late to the party BBC !

        If Chrome has everything that FF does, then you'd be right, but developers work on different items at different rates. I know that currently, for example, Chrome is missing some of Firefox's features when it comes to displaying SVG 2.

        Obviously, a higher score is better, but it doesn't help me if the browser doesn't have an HTML 5 feature that I need.

        Do we know how the scores compare when it comes to covering features that deliver BBC content?

  8. Archaon

    SD and HD

    Does this mean we'll finally be able to have a player that can determine you're on the connection to support a HD stream, rather than default to SD and make you refresh the page to use HD? Not like most video sites have had on-the-fly resolution changing for donkeys years (and auto detection of bandwidth etc is also commonplace).

    Have noticed they've brought back some of the 'classic' BBC2 intros, like the remote control car '2'. BBC gets big points for that, for nostalgia if nothing else.

    1. handle

      Re: SD and HD

      The trouble is that you might be on a connection that supports HD this moment, but the next moment you're not. That's where DASH comes into its own - Dynamic Adaptive.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next: the iPlayer?

    Honestly, I'll throw a party the day I can lose Adobe Air from my Mac.

    I have *never* had the kind of lockups that I have experienced at times with the BBC iPlayer. If I didn't travel so much I would have ripped it out already.

  10. Youngdog

    Good riddance... bad rubbish!

  11. Steve Graham

    User Agent

    Can someone suggest a user agent string that gets past the BBC gatekeeper? I've just tried several, and while it seems to be what the code is using to decide, all have been refused.

    Wait, I'll pretend to be an iPad...

    [EDIT] Yes, Safari 8 on iOS 8 was accepted to opt in. Now to see if it works (Firefox 38 on Linux really.)

    [EDIT2] No. Even with mediasource toggled in about:config.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: User Agent

      Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:41.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/41.0

      I crafted this one for my Firefox 41 on Kubuntu and it gets me past the gatekeeper, so that when I select an iPlayer stream I get the 'HTML5 beta' banner, but unfortunately the content does not play. I have fiddled with the media.* settings related to mp4 in about:config, enabling everything in sight, and have set media.mediasource.whitelist to FALSE, but no joy.

      It's not a big deal; Chrome works fine, and if FF 42 has the fix, I can wait.

  12. David Nash Silver badge


    I believe that get_iplayer works by pretending to be an iphone. So it doesn't use flash anyway and presumably (?) won't be affected.

    1. jabuzz

      Re: get_iplayer

      get_iplayer pretends to be a flash player using rtmpdump. If you read the blog article on the BBC website then you will see they intend to still serve to flash based devices for a few years yet. What happens then is another matter of course. Hopefully get_iplayer will be able to switch to HTML5 before then.

    2. Shades

      Re: get_iplayer

      I don't think get_iplayer pretends to be an iPhone, as far as I'm aware it just tricks the BBCs servers into thinking their flash player is requesting the data. There was a very similar app that pretended to be an iPhone for the same purpose but that only downloaded SD versions of programs.

      Edit: Jabuzz beat me to it by seconds! :D

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is 2015 isn't it ?

    People are still use Adobe flash ?

    I still can't believe that people would install, bug riddled, software that allow their PC to be owned through their web browser.

  14. s. pam

    It took them fucking long enough

    "Flash is Trash" has been the slogan of many for 10 years yet Auntie desperately clinged onto the Ebola Virus of animation. One would have to think Auntie had a sweetheart deal with the vendor or something, the way they've clinged onto clunker technology.

    Then it was, *gasp*, Air which was like a root canal done via your back passage with no nitrous oxide. Flaky, bug ridden, constantly crashing bag of bits.

    Auntie needs to have a lot of their Techies sacked and get Standards knowledgeable programmers onboard before the firm is so irrelevant.

    1. Recaf

      Re: It took them fucking long enough

      It's comments like this that show the complete (or perhaps willful) lack of understanding about the state of HTML5 video.

      Despite the hyperbole, HTML5 video implementations and support still vary wildly between browsers and OS, particularly when it comes to DRM: just look at the number of comments here referencing hidden settings and developer flags.

      iOS got HTML5 video first because it requires HLS, a format that only has half-arsed support on Android and almost no support at all on desktop browsers.

      A Flash free world is coming, but until all major browsers finally implement a standard platform for encrypted video which is enabled by default, media companies will be forced to continue using Flash to fill the gaps.

      If all the effort that went into publicly hating Flash went into lobbying browser developers, maybe we'd get there sooner.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: It took them fucking long enough

        If BBC would have gotten behind HTML5 properly, it could easily have helped propelling development of the HTML5 OPEN STANDARD forward at a high rate. Instead they couldn't be bothered and kept hanging on to the obsolete security nightmare that is the PROPRIETARY Flash.

  15. Thought About IT

    What about smart TVs?

    The current implementation of iPlayer works fine on my Samsung smart TV. Is this change likely to break it?

    1. Shades

      Re: What about smart TVs?

      No. Your TV uses the Tizen OS, not Flash, and, more than likely, pulls an MP4 stream down over HTTP/S straight from the BBC's servers (with additional "telemetry" sent back to Samsung about your viewing habits of course).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now perhaps the BBC can devote some resource to making the iPlayer app (and associated media player) run on a Samsung Note 4 after a YEAR of trying! They are so inept at this that they disabled the Google Play Store download option for Note 4 owners ... they have 17.5K one star reviews.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      But the Beeb's take on it will be: "why waste dev time on a four year old device?".

      (Anyway, it looks like it's Samsung's problem, not the BBCs)

  17. Teiwaz Silver badge

    News Flash?

    Still, yes. Hoped over to BBC /news and still get presented with 'Download Flash Player Now'

    Every damn survey the BBC throw my way for the last two years I've gone out of my way to highlight the Flash issue.

  18. nijam

    > consistent experience ... offered by Flash

    Namely, installing malware.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Media Playout Product Manager

    What the fuck is that for a job title? Typical of the over-inflated BS we come to expect from the Beeb.

  20. iMap

    Overdue news..

    Personally, I haven't used adobe flash player for years, nice to see the BBC is finally making a move to drop this security/ flaw encrusted crapware from the last century (macromedia-adobe)

    Live long and prosper HTML5.

  21. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Interesting Pic

    Did you choose a picture of Pacific Quay because it is emblematic of people switching off BBC completely? Up here in Scotland we don't like being lied to and Aunty Scot has been doing it for years.

    Occasionally someone in CyberNatSpace will put up an egregious example sampled and I suppose if that starts off in HTML5 it is likely to stay there, so good from that p.o.v. But I don't expect to otherwise make use of it.

    I used to be a fan of and defender of public service broadcasting BBC style. Then the Scottish referendum happened and we saw it in full on propaganda mode treating 45% of us as extremists and being as biased as hell. So to hell with Aunty, a pox on her and ALL her Great British crap.

    BTW you need a CyberNat icon to warn the more delicate denizens of Englandshire so they can dutifully ignore me.

  22. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Didn't they start doing this years ago?

    Mustn't move too quickly.. Lumbering dino.

    But they did get in on 3D quickly in a rush of must-have geekiness with no clear purpose (like DAB, only on steroids).

    Guess strategy and decision making isn't BBC forte.

  23. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    The one thing that's certain with Flash Player is that it's always in need of an update, before it could possibly be used in a "safe" manner. And why not force a browser restart while we are at it. The modern day version of "reboot your system, just because we don't know what we are doing as programmers".

  24. G4ELI

    Not quite

    Yea, no more flash. Now I can remove it from my PCs...

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