Playback Speed in Default Video Players

One of the most trafficked posts on my site is not about web development at all: Changing YouTube Playback Speed

While the ability to control playback speed has real value from an accessibility and usability perspective, mostly I was just sharing something which brings me a ton of value because I thought others might find it useful.

During some conversations last week with folks from the Edge team, I made an assertion about how Edge worked that was wrong. I did not recall that Edge’s default video player allowed me to do the same thing. As does Firefox. But not Chrome.

This is important, particularly because not everybody wants to upload videos to YouTube or Vimeo and then embed them in their pages. The embed methods present accessibility challenges, so many sites choose to self-host and use one of many third-party players, most of which have even more accessibility challenges (with some exceptions).

I feel that relying on the <video> element (thank you, HTML5) and default players in browsers should be a better long-term option, but they are not quite ready yet.

Thankfully, the three browsers I checked on my Windows machine have support for captioning. The biggest hurdle is handled there. They do not yet support additional concurrent audio tracks to provide described audio, but then neither do most third-party players.

Nope, this post is just about playback speed. With such a limited scope, the rest of this post should be short. Congrats for sticking around.

Firefox

If you can get to the context menu in Firefox, then you can choose to play a video in a few different speeds: Slow (0.5×), Fast (1.25×), Faster (1.5×), Ludicrous (2×) (there is no option for plaid). I have no idea when this was introduced but I tested this in Firefox 55.

Screen shot of the video playback speed context menu in Firefox.
To see this in Firefox, right-click or use the context menu button on your keyboard when the video has focus.

Edge

Same deal with Edge. If you can get to the context menu in Edge, then you can choose to play a video in a few different speeds: 0.5, 1.5, 2.0, 4.0, 8.0 (I think that last one is plaid). It is missing the 1.25× speed you see in Firefox, but has a 4× and 8× option. I also have no idea when this was introduced, but I tested this in Edge 40.

Screen shot of the video playback speed context menu in Edge.
To see this in Edge, right-click or use the context menu button on your keyboard when the video has focus.

Chrome

Nope. Open Firefox or Edge instead if you want to control playback speed of a video embedded with <video>. I tested this in Chrome 61.

Screen shot of the video context menu in Chrome.
There is no option in the Chrome context menu to control playback speed.

Safari

Unsurprisingly given its WebKit base, Safari also does not allow playback speed control. Scott O’Hara tested this for me in Safari 11.

Screen shot of the video context menu in Safari.
There is no option in the Safari context menu to control playback speed.

Wrap-up

Scott O’Hara got me the Mac screen shot. I restricted this to the major browsers (Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and Blisk do not offer it anyway), but if you have an example of where it does work that I did not catch, let me know.

2 Comments

Reply

Sadly you can’t change the speed of netflix in edge, well, not anymore, you could change it using “+” and “-” but it seems that it doesn’t work anymore

Alex; . Permalink
In response to Alex. Reply

I suspect Netflix is using its own player, not the default <video> element. In that case, Netflix would need to correct that.

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