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Ask Max: Why does online video stutter on my Mac?

Asked on 10/31/2008:

I am working with OS 10.4.11 and do not experience any sound (stuttering - skipping) issues when viewing any QT or .wmv movies sent to me via email.

However, when I attempt to view a video on a cable news channel, the sound starts out stuttering - missing-skipping, as the clip plays longer, the reception (most of the time) does get better.

I went to the preferences folder, in hopes of finding a pref. that I might take to the trash. Unfortunately, not knowing exactly what to look for, I could not identify a particular pref. for Internet sound.



The files you watch via Quicktime or Windows Media Player are often different file types than the ones you are watching online. Most TV channel, in-browser, content is Adobe Flash format. This has been a sore subject with Mac users for many years. Flash playback on Mac computers has historically been a resource hog, quickly driving up the system fans and stealing system performance from other applications.

Back in 2008, Adobe released a new version of Flash for the Mac that tried to address these performance issues. The performance of Flash 10 was much better and more reliable than it's predecessors. We're now up to Flash 18 in 2015, and its performance has continued to improve. It is particularly better during the downloading phase of the process, and it sounds like that is where you're experiencing the greatest issue of choppy video. Your computer is having issue caching the content from the website and trying to play that same video back to you. Especially if you're still using a version pre-Flash 10, I would recommend that you update your copy of Flash here.

As this original question was asked in 2008, it's important to mention that online streaming has greatly improved since then. Now often the problem is that there are so many Flash ads playing in the background of any given website that it tends to slow down our machine and work. Check your browser preferences to turn off automatic download of Flash to stop this process. You can choose to see a prompt to play the Flash content you actually want to see.  

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