On the YouTube.com web site, every account has the ability to be configured not to play HD-enabled video by default:
…and this is good. Even if you have a fast internet connection, I recommend using the slow-connection option because it makes the YouTube experience much, much quicker.
However, the same can’t be said for other sites on the internet.
Because of the crappiest-app-on-your-computer that is the thing known as Adobe Flash, and the fact that most large portal sites have HD for video enabled by default, and the fact those same sites use a RIDICULOUS amount of scripting that slow everything down to a crawl, and well.. it’s just not pretty.
Take this article with video for example: Martina Navratilova On Staying Fit, Coming Out, Battling Cancer And Transcending Sports
It doesn’t matter if you have the fastest internet connection possible and doesn’t matter which browser you use (IE, Fx or Chrome). The default video setting is going to have choppy frames on playback – BUT – if you purposely switch the video to use 320p quality at the lower right corner of the playback window, watch what magically happens. The video quality really doesn’t degrade that much, the choppy/stuttering frames disappear, and the video plays smoothly like it should. Oh, and a bonus: With the lower-quality playback, it’s a lot easier to scroll around on the page while the video is playing, should you want to do that.
Most people watch internet video in a windowed state (meaning not fullscreen). And even on a 24-inch monitor, 320p works just fine. For fullscreen, sure, I can understand why you would want 720p or 1080p. But for windowed video? 320p fits the bill nicely.
Side note: You’ll notice in the screenshot above that the YouTube site is smart enough to auto-switch-on HD mode when you go fullscreen with any video from a checkbox option. Other sites that feature video should also have this feature because it separates the quality settings from windowed to fullscreen easily without you having to think about it.
It seems that for whatever reason, site developers think you can really see a difference between 320p and 720p video quality in a small, windowed state. Um… not really.
All sites that feature video should have the HD option turned off by default, and not on.
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