Why are video downloader add-ons so popular?

Andrew J. Buehler wanderer at fastmail.fm
Tue Jun 9 12:43:02 UTC 2015

Hash: SHA512

On 06/09/2015 at 03:34 AM, Chris Peterson wrote:

> Firefox users like to download videos. A lot. 15 of the top 40 
> add-ons downloaded this week are video downloaders [1]. With so 
> many downloader add-ons, users clearly have a use case that
> Firefox itself is not meeting.. and yet, these downloader add-ons
> must be pretty lousy if there are so many copycat add-ons and no
> clear winner. Some non-AMO downloaders include adware or malware.

There are also non-add-on solutions, such as cclive (now apparently
mostly defunct), and youtube-dl (now not restricted to just YouTube).

I myself have for many years had a policy of never watching non-live
streaming video without pulling down a local copy first (unless the
playback is being initiated and controlled by others), and I primarily
use youtube-dl as my "save the stream" solution.

> Why do users want to download videos? Some likely reasons:
> - to watch videos offline later (time shifting) - to watch a video
> locally to avoid streaming/buffering problems - to archive their
> favorite videos

All of these apply in my case, as does:

- - to allow playback using their preferred player software, rather than
with whatever playback interface is provided by the (site / browser /

which, alongside the (now much less serious due to greatly improved
bandwidth) buffering issue, was the major original motivation for my
local-copy-only policy.

I've also seen cases of:

- - to play later in an environment with limited or no Internet access
- - to embed in another file (e.g. PowerPoint presentation) which doesn't
know how to talk to YouTube and/or which may need to be used in a
situation with limited or no Internet access

Both of these may arguably fall under "watch offline later", but are not
simply "time shifting", at minimum in that both may involve playing from
a completely different computer.

> If Mozilla can't implement video downloading in Firefox, maybe we 
> can address some of the use cases that lead users to want to 
> download videos. To address the streaming/buffering problems, we 
> could make our buffering heuristics more conservative or add a 
> "Buffer Entire Video" content menu item. To address the time 
> shifting use case, maybe we could implement offline video caching 
> (in such a way that Firefox is caching raw video segments, not 
> saving to an MP4 file).

While these may help a little bit, I strongly suspect that the problem
is that many people want use cases which are actively incompatible with
YouTube's policies, and with the maximalist interpretations of copyright
law which lie behind them.

Also, how practical would it be to do the "raw video segments" caching
in such a way that they could not be fairly trivially combined by an
external program into a valid and playable file? I would expect that any
such obfuscation would be difficult and (especially given that this is
open-source) relatively futile, unless actual encryption is used, in
which case you'd have to manage encryption keys and deal with the added
processing overhead of encrypting and decrypting the data.

- -- 
  Andrew J. Buehler
Version: GnuPG v2


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