Menu Close

How to Watch YouTube on Your PC or Mac, Without Flash

YouTube without Flash

There’s no way to say it nicely – Flash is a resource hog. On a beefy machine, you might not notice it, but if you’re running something like an older MacBook Air, Flash could bog your system down. You can try living without Flash – or even use a browser plugin to block it, but then you run into problems on a site like YouTube. Fear not, though, as YouTube gives you an option to watch videos without using Flash.

The trick on YouTube is to join the HTML 5 trial. To do so, simply go to the trial’s YouTube page, scroll towards the bottom, and click on the “Join the HTML 5 Trial” link. After that, whenever you visit YouTube, you’ll be presented with an HTML 5 version of a video, instead of the Flash version. There are some exceptions, though, as explained below. The trial is on a per-browser basis, so you need to activate the trial for each browser that you use. Chrome has Flash built in by default, but you can still choose to use HTML 5 on YouTube.


The trial is available for browsers that support both the video tag in HTML5, and either the h.264 video codec or the WebM format. That means Firefox 4, Chrome, Opera 10.6+, Safari 4+, and Internet Explorer 9, as well as Internet Explorer versions 6 and up if Chrome Frame is installed. You might need to download an update to get WebM or h.264 support. The trial’s page graphically displays what your browser supports, and has links for what you’ll need.

There are some notable restrictions to the trial. Fullscreen support is only partially implemented, as pressing the fullscreen button will expand the player to fill your browser. If your browser supports a fullscreen option, you can then use that to truly fill the screen. Not all videos are available in WebM formats, either, and videos with ads are not supported in the trial. In Firefox and Opera, only videos with WebM transcodes will play in HTML5. If that’s too much for you, you can always return to the trial page, and click on a link to leave the trial.

Do you hate Flash enough to live with those restrictions?