Firefox’s Picture-in-Picture rolls out subtitles – a Mozilla Connect community requested feature

There are so many different ways that Firefox users count on Picture-in-Picture for their best browsing and content viewing experiences:

  • Toddler duty? Don’t sweat it! Stream your child’s favorite movie to watch on your desktop while you hold down your job and the title of “favorite parent!”
  • Learning new coding skills? Open an online tutorial video while keeping your developer software full screen where you test the code.
  • Trying a new recipe? With Picture-in-Picture you can watch Emily Mariko’s viral salmon rice bowl how-to while also having the in-text recipe open on your main browser tab.

Beginning with Firefox 1.0, we’ve continued to put our users first to develop and deliver on the features most important to them. Our mission then – to build an internet open and accessible to all – still remains the same today. That’s why, nearly 99 releases later, we’re excited to introduce subtitles and captions to Firefox’s Picture-in-Picture (PiP). 

A community-led effort

In 2019, we released Picture-in-Picture and it soon topped our best features lists. This Firefox browser feature allows you to seamlessly pop any video out from the webpage into a floating, size-adjustable window in just one click. After hearing from Firefox users who wanted more than just one picture-in-picture view, we launched Multiple Picture-in-Picture (multi-PiP), which allows users to pop out and play multiple videos at the same time and on top of other tabs and windows. Now, we’re rolling out PiP with subtitles and captions – another highly requested feature straight from our community!

In fact, our product managers engaged our recently launched Mozilla Connect community – a collaborative space for users to share product feedback, submit ideas for new features, and participate in meaningful discussions that help shape future releases – to help develop exciting updates to the Firefox video and PiP experiences. This is where we received an astounding amount of feedback to enhance Picture-in-Picture with subtitles and captions support to make it more functional for a wider range of users.

So, how does the subtitles and captions feature on Picture-In-Picture work? 

The subtitles and captions feature in Picture-in-Picture is available on three major streaming sites – YouTube, Prime Video, and Netflix – plus all websites that support the emerging W3C standard called WebVTT (Web Video Text Track) format, such as Twitter and Coursera. It’s really as simple as turning on the subtitles or captions on the in-page video player of your favorite website, and they will appear in PiP when launched. 

There are many sites that don’t yet support the emerging web standard, so if you don’t see captions when using PiP on your favorite streaming site, let the website know that you want them to support WebVTT or vote on the community page to help Firefox select the streaming sites we should support next by building special site-specific adapters for these websites. If you would like to contribute your own site-specific adapter, you can do it here (how-to included), so that more websites support subtitles in PiP. 

How do captions/subtitles make videos more usable, and therefore more accessible? 

It’s true that adding captions and subtitles can make videos more accessible to a wider range of users. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 20% of North Americans and more than 55% of Europeans speak more than one language.  It can prove handy to watch videos with subtitles in your second language, or when you’re interested in watching something in a language you don’t know at all. For viewers that are non-native speakers, subtitles help them learn a new language faster and with a greater depth of understanding.

Another highly visible example, is that Firefox users who experience a degree of hearing loss may rely on captions to follow along to video content. Interestingly, the majority of people who like watching videos with captions are hearing, yet still opt in for their own benefit! Reading captions can improve comprehension and memorization and it might be helpful to use them while multitasking and studying at a library or shared workspace, or any other situation where sound may be distracting or inappropriate. There are also many other situations when users would want to watch videos with the sound off and captions on.

“Today users with disabilities have a choice when it comes to accessible browsers, but accessibility is never actually ‘done’ and there’s still a lot more browsers could do to better support users with disabilities. So, with that, Firefox is looking to see what innovations can be provided to improve the accessibility of web browsing and empower users with disabilities in more ways.”

Asa Dotzler, product manager for Firefox Accessibility

As Firefox continues to make its products more usable to a range of users with varying needs, the accessibility of our products will only increase, and we have our community to thank for that! Now, whether you identify as being hard-of-hearing, a non-native language speaker or having an affinity for having multiple tabs open at one time, we have you covered with Picture-in-Picture subtitles. 

Got things to do and things to watch? Go ahead and download the latest version of Firefox here to use Picture-in-Picture in Firefox.

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