How to Watch BBC News Videos on a Desktop Without Flash in Firefox

You may also like to read how to block the BBC News website Breaking News pop-up banner for all devices on your network, even when out and about.


no flash video firefox

In my previous post I described how to get HTML5 videos (instead of flash videos) on the BBC News website. Here are some detailed instructions for how to do this in Firefox.

Chrome and IE both have built in flash players so there is no need for this hack. Firefox does not and I don’t want to install flash for security and annoyance reasons.

There are a couple of ways to change your User Agent (UA) string. With about:config and with an extension.

Native

Enter the following into the address bar and ignore the dragons warning.

about:config  

Then add a new string preference with the name of:

general.useragent.override  

And a value of:

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 4.4.4; en-us; Nexus 5 Build/JOP40D) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/42.0.2307.2 Mobile Safari/537.36  

You should now get HTML5 videos on the BBC News website.

To remove this setting reset the parameter to clear its value. If you reload the preferences page you will find it has disappeared.

Unfortunately Mozilla removed the feature that allows you to set this on a site by site basis. So this hack affects all domains and all sites will think your are a mobile visitor. This could cause some undesired behaviour on other sites so you may prefer to use an extension.

Extension

UAControl allows you to set the UA string per domain but unfortunately it doesn’t work for this. It doesn’t set the UA for JavaScript which I’m guessing is the problem.

User Agent Switcher does work but it’s a global setting affecting all sites. It’s easier than using about:config as it has a menu allowing easy toggling on and off.

I haven’t found an extension which combines the best features of both these extensions. One that works but just for the BBC site. If you know of one then leave a comment.

Archived Comments

Gervase Markham says:
28th September 2015 at 3:17 pm

This doesn’t seem to be working in current Aurora, at least :-( I get “This content doesn’t seem to be working. Please try again later” for every video. This is setting the general.useragent.override pref directly.

James says:
28th September 2015 at 4:01 pm

The native method above is still working for me on BBC News with Firefox 40 and 41.

James says:
28th September 2015 at 4:11 pm

Working in latest Aurora dev edition (43) too.

Anonymous says:
1st November 2015 at 1:28 am

fwiw you can opt in to using html5 (beta) on iplayer, it does nothing for content on the website but it’ll at least contribute to giving the beeb a helping shove in the right direction.

James says:
13th November 2015 at 10:23 am

Yes, I’ve done that and the player works well. The link is http://www.bbc.co.uk/html5 but as you say it’s only for iPlayer, not news videos. You still need to pretend to be a mobile device for them. It looks like they may be slowly getting around to rolling it out further from the blog posts at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet.

Michael Goscombe says:
21st November 2015 at 6:41 pm

Apologies for asking the question about Firefox a few minutes ago, James. As I mainly want to listen to Radio programs via the I-player, the link you provided above should work.

Michael Goscombe says:
21st November 2015 at 6:44 pm

I’ve just navigated to BBc Radio I-player via the link above, but it still states ‘You need to have Flash Player installed, etc.’

James says:
23rd November 2015 at 5:33 pm

It appears that the HTML5 beta test is only for the TV iPlayer and not the radio one. Hopefully they’ll roll it out further but I don’t expect this to happen quickly.

You used to be able to use the radio station stream URL in other players such as VLC but these have been removed.

Jason says:
27th June 2016 at 5:09 am

I found this to work well with UA Switcher allowing it to update the js user agent. Sometimes the website requires a refresh to get both video and audio, but better than needing Flash. Tested with Firefox 47. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/user-agent-js-fixer/?src=search

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