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Beeb iPlayer gets Firefox-friendly

Auntie's IE hegemony broken for download client

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The BBC has finally made the download version of its iPlayer on-demand TV service compatible with Firefox, after six months as an Internet Explorer-only product.

There's still no support for operating systems other than Windows, but it marks the first official break with the multi-million-pound application's Microsoft-only status. Linux and Mac versions have been promised within two years.

Anthony Rose, the ex-Kazaa tech chief who was put in charge of iPlayer development in September, said: "It's good because it's the first real non-Microsoft thing we've been able to do with the download iPlayer."

Adding Firefox compatibility for Windows PCs has taken about two months, he said. "I was surprised that Kontiki [the Verisign P2P platform that distributes video for the download client] has a strange Internet Explorer plug-in to support Firefox support, and there were problems with that. What we did was to write our own Firefox plug-in instead."

Savvy Firefox users have been able to use the iPlayer application by downloading and installing their own plug-in independent of the BBC, but today's update means mainstream licence fee payers aren't forced to use Internet Explorer if they want downloads.

The rapidly-conceived, browser and OS-agnostic, Flash-based web streaming iPlayer has proven more popular than the desktop application by a factor of eight to one. BBC sources say peer to peer will likely be developed as a secondary complement to streaming services, for cheap distribution of massive high definition video files (which are too big for streaming on the existing broadband infrastructure) for viewers who want them, for example. ®

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