ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

3 Addons to Improve Your YouTube Experience

If you are a PC user armed with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, then you already know that you’ve got the web at your fingertips. What you may or may not realize, however, is just how deep your prying little hands can go. These days it seems we are less content with just browsing the web than ever. We want it customized to suit our tastes and needs. And when it comes to major social services, well, the devs can’t get by with changing anything without enduring the wrath of the world (until everyone forgets what they were angry about and adopts the changes like they’ve always been there). But the truth of the matter is, if you see something around the web that you want changed, with a little know-how you can change it—at least for your own, personal browsing experience. With the recent changes Google applied to YouTube that idea may well be music to your ears right about now, so today we’re going to take a look at three addons for Firefox and Chrome that, while not changing everything back to how you’re used to, will make your browsing experience a bit more interesting and useful.


Home-grown here in the ThinkBoxly labs, MeTube is a user style for the Stylish addon that packs a whole slew of tweaks and additions to the traditional YouTube experience. Now updated to version 2.0 it not only features compatibility with the latest update to YouTube itself, but also a couple new features as well. Here you’ll get such features as a bigger medium-sized player for HD viewing without fullscreen, a mini-player that docks in the corner of your browser while you peruse comments and related videos further down the page, a Lights Off function to make night time viewing easier on the eyes, animated channel headers (provided your screen resolution is sufficient), and several other notable tweaks as well. It’s the user’s YouTube—a more elegant, more convenient way to browse and consume content. Content creators will also enjoy the removal of YouTube’s ‘dislike’ feature all across the board. Not that I encourage turning a blind eye to any and all negativity, but anyone who’s been around YouTube for long knows that dislike stats are perpetually abused and provide no useful feedback on how to improve their content. Without such distractions creators can better focus on their true supporting audience. There’s something for everyone in MeTube—it’s just plain a better way.


YouTube Auto Replay

For when once just isn’t enough. If you thought the 24-hour version of Nyan Cat was impressive, try ‘infinite’ on for size. Admit it: you’ve used YouTube to listen to music before. Don’t worry, you’re not alone; in fact, YouTube has become an important discovery platform for many recording artists, even those who’ve never authored a video in their entire career. You should always support the artists you love, but in our connected world sometimes a YouTube video is more accessible and convenient than an MP3. For those times when you need some music fast, YouTube Auto Replay will keep it going as long as you’re content to listen. It even comes with a clipping feature, so you can loop only a certain segment of a video instead the whole thing. While there are plenty of websites that offer this functionality on their own, it’s much more convenient to have a loop tool right on the original YouTube page.

Firefox, Chrome

YouTube All HTML5

Let’s face it: Adobe’s Flash is the old way of doing the web. In its time it pushed the boundaries of what was possible in web design and applications, but these days it is slowly being replaced by more efficient solutions. Keyword there: ‘slowly’. Ever since its inception YouTube has primarily relied upon a Flash-based video player, and for the most part it works pretty well. But there is a Flash-free alternative that’s easier on your browser and sometimes will even buffer videos faster than its Flash counterpart. This newfangled HTML5 player is accessible without an add-on by clicking the ‘Try Something New!’ link tucked away in YouTube’s footer, but it’s presently an all-or-nothing affair save sponsored videos where YouTube has disabled the HTML5 player, and as the HTML5 player only supports a maximum video resolution of 720p there’s still good reason to switch back to Flash on a whim for full HD viewing. YouTube All HTML5 turns both problems on their heads by providing an easy access button to toggle HTML5 on or off as you need it, and it will even overcome built-in limitations to enable the HTML5 player on sponsored videos. If you’ve got a reasonably powerful computer and a fast and stable internet connection you may not notice a huge difference with and without this addon, but if you rely on public WiFi from time to time or don’t have a great connection at home this one can really be a life saver (assuming your life depends on YouTube).

Firefox, alternative for Chrome

All of these addons integrate seamlessly with YouTube. They add and enhance without contributing clutter or occupying lots of system resources. So take advantage of the tools at your disposal; a better, more personalized web is only just a few clicks away.