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If you're running Chrome or Safari as your main browser, Google's now offering up YouTube videos without Flash. That's right—fewer system hangs, browser crashes, and other issues, and just straight-up video through HTML5 standards.
Google has previously allowed Chrome, Safari, and Internet-Explorer-using-Chrome-Frame browsers to try out a few HTML5 video demos at its site, but now Google's given you the option to always play videos through the h.264 codec, if they're available. If they have ads, or aren't available in h.264, YouTube will serve up the standard Flash player—though that's been upgraded, too, with a nice video format chooser in the lower-right corner.
The notable missing piece here is Firefox. Firefox does support HTML5's video streaming through Ogg Theora, a non-patented, license-free codec that its makers consider more free, while Google, and Apple, have moved their sites and browsers toward supporting h.264 streaming.
Chrome only: Firefox users can already use the VidzBigger Greasemonkey script to tweak and customize popular video sharing sites like YouTube, and now the script has been ported as a full Google Chrome extension.
After installing the extension, you simply can browse to any YouTube, MetaCafe, or DailyMotion video to see the layout changes—everything on the page is rearranged to show the video in a bigger size, and it keeps the video in place while you scroll the page to view suggested videos, so you can keep watching while looking around.
The biggest set of features is hidden in the preferences menu, where you can change dozens of options including disabling auto-play, skipping warnings and advertisements, tweaking the layout further, or even enabling a set of download links so you can keep a copy of the video for later.