Walmart Blocks Other Browsers/Platforms

Walmart Video Downloads blocks all browsers but IE on Windows. I tried it from Safari on Mac OS X 10.4 and still wasn’t able to get in (they wanted me to still download IE 6). As noted by TechCrunch, initially it looked like someone didn’t include the stylesheet correctly. Now it’s blocked with a formal error page. Initially it worked with a reload, now not at all. Spoofing the UserAgent let me in, and revealed only a small CSS goof with the header. Didn’t try a purchase since there’s nothing there I would really want. I guess this could be considered a feature: My browser prevents me from downloading You, Me, and Dupree.

Apparently they use Windows Media Player for the DRM. I’d be surprised if it didn’t function properly in WMP when downloaded with Firefox. Thus far I haven’t seen any real difference between Windows Media Player 11 on IE and Firefox. It’s a great thing that Microsoft has drastically improved support.

I’m surprised they didn’t just redirect to a more compatible store.

There has been a fair amount of improvement in website compatibility with Firefox and Safari over the past 18 months. Unfortunately this isn’t an example of that.

Windows Media Player 11 And Firefox

Windows Media Player 11 has been out for a while now. I just recently installed it since I like to wait until some others have tried Microsoft’s larger updates first. Since the upgrade I went around several sites to see how it performs while using Firefox. It does indeed look as if the busy bees at Microsoft have been hard at work improving Windows Media Player support for Firefox (using Firefox 2.0).

The most noticeable difference is that when clicking on a link to a Windows media file such as a .wmv it correctly launches Windows Media Player and plays without involving the download manager. This is a big usability win right here. It makes the process of watching video much more fluent. In my opinion this alone is worth the upgrade.

Browsing around sites, I couldn’t find any major problems, so the upgrade seems pretty safe regarding compatibility.

I did note that on CNN.com, which nests the player with native controls in a UI that butts right up against the bottom of the player it can get cut off on the bottom by a few pixels. I personally haven’t seen this in Windows Media Player prior, so I presume this is new. It seems like it happens mostly if the window is refreshed, or if it’s toggled back and forth between fullscreen a few times. A screenshot is below (click for full sized):

Windows Media Player on CNN

I couldn’t find any other site with a design similar to that using Windows Media Player, so I couldn’t reproduce it. Either sites are using custom controls (such as CBSNews.com), don’t have anything so close to the bottom of the player, or don’t use Windows Media. If anyone can think of a similar site, or finds one with this quirk leave a comment.

This isn’t a serious issue since the player is still usable, and it’s not something that happens very often (it took several minutes of playing around to reproduce it more than once).

Has anyone else seen issues with Windows Media Player 11? How has site compatibility been since upgrading with Firefox 1.5 and 2.0?

CNN Relaunch

CNN Relaunched with a slightly tweaked site (nothing to major, some xhtml, and slight code clean up apparently). The big feature is now the video (which was subscription only since 2002) is now free. The downside is that it’s no longer Real Player, but Windows Media. The quality isn’t at all bad. It didn’t detect WMP in Firefox, but it has a button to override detection, so I could still view the video just fine, but not good for Mac and Linux users. I wish they would have stuck with Real Media. At least they are relatively decent at being cross platform, even if their player is extremely bloated. If you want to support all platforms, and use one of the big 3, Real Media is still the best. If Mac and Windows is your target, Apple wins by a longshot (the player is essentially identical on both platforms). Real is a bit lacking on non-windows platforms, but does appear to cover the most with a player.

At least there’s free video now. Finally catching up to MSNBC and FoxNews. MSNBC obviously uses Windows Media, while FoxNews uses Flash, which is slightly lower in quality, but cross platform, and loads relatively quickly.

Update: I reinstalled WindowsMedia for OS X, and it did detect just as it did with Firefox on Windows. But it for some reason never got past my Firewall (unlike the windows version). Both systems are behind the extact same firewall with the exact same settings. So it didn’t work, but it’s progress. Perhaps with the next update it will work, or there’s a work around. I’m open to any comments/suggestions on getting it to work in Firefox and/or Safari on OS X.