How Your Browser Choice Affects Streaming VideoAmazon, Hulu, and Netflix all support the use of recent versions of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. Hulu and Netflix also support Edge, Microsoft’s replacement for Internet Explorer. Although none of these sites recommends the use of one browser over another, it’s possible that the browser you use to go online may be affecting your enjoyment of streaming video. If poor streaming speed or quality is frustrating you, the following information may help. Go Big or Go Chrome If Google Chrome is your browser of choice, you may notice that Netflix video quality just doesn’t seem as good as it should be. As it turns out, this lack of quality has nothing to do with Netflix or your connection speed. As of this writing, Chrome only allows a maximum Netflix resolution of 720p, which is the lowest standard for high-definition video. Most screens can now support a higher resolution, as can Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, all of which can stream at 1080p. It’s likely that future versions of Chrome will improve this performance but, for now, Chrome may not be the best choice for streaming. Even if it’s your favorite browser, you might consider using another for streaming video. Firefox Gets More User-Friendly One example of an update that can affect your streaming experience is the fact that older versions of Firefox required Microsoft’s Silverlight plugin to play Netflix video. Users attempting to view Amazon or Netflix on Firefox had to download and install the Silverlight plugin. While that process was relatively straightforward, it may have been a challenge for the less tech-savvy who simply wanted to stream their favorite TV shows. However, beginning with Firefox version 38, users should no longer have to do so, making it a better choice for streaming. This update illustrates the importance of making sure you install your browser updates. So the next time it asks, let it update. Check Your Settings Some browsers use a setting called “hardware acceleration” that can cause problems with online performance. This problem seems especially common in Firefox, and is often suggested as a common source of streaming video problems on a variety of different sites. You’ll also find hardware acceleration as a feature in Flash, a software used by many streaming video sites. According to Hulu, changing Flash’s hardware acceleration setting may also improve performance. Many users install a variety of plugins to provide additional browser functionality. Sometimes, though, these plugins can cause as many problems as they solve. One of Chrome’s solutions for troubleshooting streaming video problems is to try viewing the video in incognito mode. If doing so improves streaming video quality, one of your plugins is the likely culprit. Although other browsers don’t recommend this same troubleshooting technique, plugins can be a potential cause of problems in any browser, and disabling or removing them may help. Test a New Browser Two easy ways to see if your browser is the source of your streaming video problems are simply to make sure you have the latest version of your current browser, and trying streaming in a new browser. If you don’t have another one installed on your computer, your current browser should at least prove useful for downloading a new one. You can choose from the newest version of Apple Safari, Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox. Because Internet Explorer is now a legacy browser, and Edge is only meant for new Windows 10 machines that should already come with it, we don’t recommend installing one of these onto a computer equipped with the other. Speed Still Matters No browser can do a good job of streaming video unless it has a sufficiently fast connection. If your plan just doesn’t give you the speed you need, find a new one that does. Start by entering your zip code below. [zipfinder]
Will Smith is a copywriter living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His favorite word is “petrichor,” and aside from wordplay, he loves reading history, watching Dodger baseball, and racing with the Sports Car Club of America.