Watching web videos even after uninstalling Flash plugin

13 November 2015, 05:16

You really should remove the Adobe Flash plugin on your Mac. It’s a hideous security vulnerability. To have it installed is to risk having your system compromised on a daily basis.

But if you do uninstall Flash plugin then you’ll find video and audio playback on quite a lot of sites doesn’t work. Some more enlightened sites have moved over to HTML5 video, which works on most modern browsers without the need for a plugin, but not all sites have done so – and at the present time this includes BBC News.

However, there’s a nice and easy trick to around this with Safari on the Mac. It works in 90% of cases.

For initial setup, open Safari’s preferences dialog box (Cmd+comma), and then click the Advanced tab. Then put a check alongside Show Develop Menu in Menu Bar.

From now on, whenever you get “Flash blocked” – that is to say, you see a message saying the video or audio isn’t available unless you install Adobe Flash – just click the Develop menu entry, and select User Agent > Safari iOS 8.1 iPad.

Hey presto – you should find the site uses HTML 5 video instead, so playback will commence. The BBC News site certainly follows this rule. This works because most sites HAVE TO accommodate iPad and iPhone users with HTML5 video because there’s simply no way to install Flash on iOS – although why the sites don’t simply use HTML5 video across the board is a complete mystery.

Don’t forget to switch back to “Default (Automatically Chosen)” on the Develop > User Agent menu when you’ve finished watching the video file. Alternatively, you can also simply close that particular tab.

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The develop menu>User Agent actually says:
Safari – iOS 9 – iPad

This technique has been around and has eked well for several years now, however it often fails. It seems that somehow thee are sites that can tell the difference between a real iPhone, iPad and Mac (I have all three) and will serve the iPhones and iPads h.264 video yet not serve the Mac anything, when the mac is masquerading as an iPhone or iPad. Its weird but I see it all the time.

I deleted Flash from my system almost two years ago and have been using this exact technique the entire time to watch video. I just wish it would work all the time (I don’t use Chrome because Google is just another privacy and security nightmare).

Dr Bob · Nov 13, 04:12 PM · #

Hi Bob– you can see from my screenshot that I don’t see what you see.

Keir · Nov 14, 01:57 AM · #

I’m using El Cap 10.11.1, by the way, and Safari 9.0.1

Keir · Nov 14, 03:55 AM · #

I had to do this on this site to see the video in today’s article, “Interesting Examination of Forensically Examining a Macbook.” Ironic, no?

— Bruce Kay · Nov 14, 10:27 AM · #

Bruce, I haven’t got Flash installed and it plays fine for me on Safari.

Weird. What browser are you using?

Keir · Nov 14, 11:40 AM · #