Last Thursday, I wondered why the Associated Press was launching a new video network online that required the use of the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. The AP’s Sue Cross says that the news cooperative is working on a solution to the compatibility problem, but many readers pointed out that the AP Online Video Network isn’t the only video service limiting its reach by requiring the IE browser.
So I started to investigate this further, and have compiled a list of various video services online that also limit their reach by requiring the use of the IE browser. In most cases, this also means that people with Macintosh computers can’t access the video as well, though it varies from service to service.
Why does this matter? The online world has long battled over which platform will dominate, whether it’s for browsers (Microsoft vs. Netscape vs. Firefox) or for streaming video (RealPlayer vs. Windows Media Player). While some technologies such as Adobe Acrobat and Java promise interoperability on multiple platforms, it’s difficult for site operators to satisfy all the people all the time. However, with the relative comeback of the Macintosh, and the rise of the Firefox browser and Linux operating system, content publishers need to pay attention to what their users want or face the prospect of alienating them.
So I’ve compiled a list of online video services that require Internet Explorer or shut out Macs altogether. Please send along sites that have frustrated you with similar requirements, and I’ll add them to the list with a credit to you. Just tell us about the sites in the comments below, or use the MediaShift Feedback form to let me know. I’ll also consider sites with audio feeds that require IE or Windows Media Player. Or conversely, if there are sites that don’t work with Internet Explorer, I’ll list those as well.
I will try to update this list frequently, so if sites fix incompatiblity problems, I’ll remove them.
Video Services That Require Internet Explorer or Windows
Akimbo — Video-on-demand service only works with Media Center PCs with Windows XP.
AP Online Video Network — Video network for Associated Press requires Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player.
Bravo’s Project Runway — Exclusive online video that requires Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system. (Thanks to Rick Callahan of Laguna Beach, Calif.)
Comedy Central Motherlode — Requires Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player; will work with Firefox but a plug-in is needed.
In2TV — Beta test of AOL video service requires Windows XP and Windows Media Player 10. Will work with Firefox but not on Macs. (Thanks to Diane Werts.)
LaunchCast on Yahoo — Online music service requires Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player on a PC, and Netscape Navigator and Windows Media Player on a Mac. Firefox users are out of luck. (Thanks to Julie.)
Movielink — Movie-downloading service requires Internet Explorer and a PC with the Windows operating system. UPDATE: As of last May, Movielink stopped supporting Windows 98 and Windows ME and now requires Windows 2000 or XP, and doesn’t support Macs or Linux. (Thanks to Diane Werts.)
MSN Video — MSN and MSNBC video hubs require Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player.
MTV Overdrive — Requires Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and a computer with the Windows operating system.
TurboNick — Requires a PC with Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and the Windows operating system.
VH1 VSpot — Requires Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player; will work with Firefox but a plug-in is needed.
Vongo — Movie-download service requires a PC with Windows, but will work with Firefox browser. Not for Macs. (See below for an update with a comment from a Vongo executive.)
Some people singled out XM Radio’s online audio player as requiring Internet Explorer. While that used to be the case, XM now allows you to listen with a Macintosh, and does support Firefox, according to a new FAQ on its website. However, one XM fan was non-plussed by the satellite radio service’s lack of customer service response on this issue.
Let us know your experiences and I’ll include them in future updates of this post.
UPDATE: Eric Becker, executive director of corporate communications for Starz Entertainment Group, wrote to me via email about Vongo’s restriction to Windows platforms. He said that the dynamics for Vongo might be a bit different than for other content providers online.
“We would love to be on the Mac platform,” Becker said. “In fact, the Vongo client is engineered to run on Macs beautifully. It’s more of a question of business philosopohy from Steve Jobs than it is anything else, as the Apple business model (and thus its DRM [digital rights management]) only supports transactions (a la iTunes) and Vongo is primarily a subscription movie service.
“We have made no secret our desire to distribute the subscription movies download experience of Vongo on the Mac and in a sense the ball is in their court at this time. We hope that Apple recognizes the intrinsic advantages of subscription business models in the realm of long-form video entertainment and at the very least looks to make this an option in the future.”
So it’s not just Microsoft pushing its platforms onto content providers, but Apple trying to keep control of video and audio content as well.
UPDATE 2: I’ve started another Open Source Reporting list, this time a “whitelist” of online video services that will work cross-platform with Windows, IE, Firefox and on a Mac. Check out the list and let me know of your favorite cross-platform video sites.