A look at Firefox's upcoming Picture-in-Picture mode

Mozilla revealed that it was working on a Picture-in-Picture mode for the Firefox web browser back in February. Designed to play videos in a small overlay on the screen, Picture-in-Picture mode allows users of the browser to navigate between tabs and sites without interfering with the playing video using the detached video player.

The original plan was to introduce the mode in Firefox 68 but development has been delayed. Current plans aim for a release in the next stable Windows version of the Firefox web browser, Firefox 71. Firefox 71 will be released on December 3, 2019 if the schedule does not change. Linux and Mac versions of Firefox may see a release in Firefox 72 which will be released on January 7, 2020.

Note: The Firefox preference media.videocontrols.picture-in-picture.enabled determines whether Picture-in-Picture mode is enabled. Firefox users may enable the feature already in the browser (there may still be bugs).

Firefox Picture-in-Picture mode

firefox picture-in-picture

Firefox adds a small blue icon to supported videos that displays “Picture-in-Picture” when hovered over.

A click on the icon opens the video in the Picture-in-Picture interface and displays a placeholder on the original site. It reads “This video is playing in Picture-in-Picture mode”. A right-click may also display the option to load the video in Picture-in-Picture mode.

firefox pip mode

The Picture-in-Picture overlay can be moved around on the screen independently and also resized. The interface is not entirely independent but you may change tabs and use the browser normally.

The only thing that affects the video is the tab it originated on. If you reload it or navigate away, the video is closed automatically.

The Picture-in-Picture interface is bare bones. It features a play/pause toggle button and another for restoring the video in its original location in Firefox. The only other option that is provided is to close the Picture-in-Picture interface by activating the close button.

Controls, e.g. to change the volume of the video, change the quality or make other changes, are missing. It is possible to use the controls on the video’s original site, e.g. to use the slider to jump to a different position or to change the volume.

Here is an overview of all Picture-in-Picture preferences in Firefox:

  • media.videocontrols.picture-in-picture.enabled — The main preference to enable or disable the feature.
  • media.videocontrols.picture-in-picture.video-toggle.always-show — Determines whether the PIP icon is shown always (Firefox does not show it for certain videos, e.g. those without an audio track or that are too small in size).
  • media.videocontrols.picture-in-picture.video-toggle.enabled — Whether to show the toggle to enable PIP mode in Firefox.
  • media.videocontrols.picture-in-picture.video-toggle.flyout-enabled — Animation when activating the mode.
  • media.videocontrols.picture-in-picture.video-toggle.flyout-wait-ms — Wait time for flyout mode.

Closing words

The main benefit of using Picture-in-Picture mode is that users may watch the video unhindered while doing something else in the browser. The PIP window is set to be on top which means that it remains visible even if you navigate to another tab.

Firefox users who like to watch videos while doing something else in the browser may find the mode useful the most. Some Firefox users may prefer to play videos in a second browser window, especially if the display offers enough room to display two windows on the screen.

Now You: What is your take on Picture-in-Picture mode?

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