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Online videos need to run from the YouTube website, so ultimately, clicking over there is the easiest way to go!

I'm using Mozilla Thunderbird, version 14. On occasion, I get an email with an embedded YouTube video. The problem is where the video is supposed to be displayed is just a black rectangle. I'm wondering if there's a configuration setting that needs to be set or what? In a sense, I don't really care that much, but I'd like to at least see what's there with regards to the video. I've queried the Thunderbird forum but get no response. Any ideas?

In this excerpt from Answercast #47, I look at the reason why videos do not display well in emails and suggest an easy alternative.

Emailed videos

Actually, I have two ideas. One is that you need to have "Show images" turned on for that particular sender.

  • What "Show images" does is it, by default, prevents remote content from being displayed in an email message when you look at it.

That's done to prevent spammers from realizing that you've opened their message. It also can be used to prevent other content from being downloaded because you simply opened your message.

So, at some point, when you take a look at that message, if that's the case...

  • There should be a link or a line there that says Click here to view images or Click here to view remote content;
  • And in some cases, there will be a line that says, "Click to always allow this sender's emails to have its content viewed immediately."

So that's one thing.

YouTube is for web pages

The other thing is that, in all honesty, YouTube videos weren't really meant to be embedded in email. I don't say that as an intentional decision on YouTube's part. More that email (HTML email or rich email) doesn't really support all of the features that a web page does.

  • The embedding code that YouTube provides is intended to be used when somebody's creating a web page and they want that video to be displayed on their web page.

Now, some people, clearly, are using that to try to embed that video into an email message. Ultimately, that's not really the right thing to do for this and for some other reasons.

A link is better

What they really should be doing is just giving you the link:

  • Give you the link to the video on;

  • And let you click on that link to go view the video.

Now, I don't know what people are including with the message that is included with this embedded video, but that's my recommendation - that you try and get from them the actual link to YouTube.

It might already be a link

It is possible maybe that if you actually click on the black rectangle that you're seeing, it may do something like ask you if you want to load the content or potentially even take you to

Certainly that is something that should be safe to try. It will, at least, give you a bit more information:

  • But ultimately embedding videos in email like that isn't the right way to go about it.

  • Whoever is sending you this, should be sending you a link instead.

Article C5738 - August 26, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Fred Wortham
September 1, 2012 2:05 AM

I would be very, very careful about clicking on videos in emails unless you know the sender. I've gotten videos in emails that have nothing to do with YouTube, but may prompt for a codec installation which may very well be, in reality, malware of some sort.

So, again, I would BE VERY CAREFUL about videos in emails.

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