Lost functionality

Have you ever noticed that quite often “new and improved” means lost functionality? Consider, for example, the difference between watching a movie on DVD and watching Hulu or Netflix. Overall, I like the Netflix experience. But sometimes I miss something and want to back up a few seconds. With the DVD remote, I could press a button and start viewing the video in reverse. It took just a moment to back up to where I wanted to be and then I could hit the Play button again. That’s not possible with any of the video players I see online.

With the browser-based players and even with Microsoft Media Player, I have to grab the slider and move it back. But it’s very difficult or impossible to move the slider back just 10 seconds. The procedure is something like this:

  1. Note the current video time, if it’s displayed.
  2. Grab the slider.
  3. Very carefully move the slider to the left, noting the displayed time.
  4. No matter how careful you are, you will go back too far.
  5. Move to the right.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 in a binary search pattern until you get to the proper time index.
  7. Let go and hope you got it right.

Because the slider is scaled, the longer the video is, the harder it is to get this right, and you can’t get infinite precision. For example, if you’re watching a 2-hour movie and the slider is 1,000 pixels wide, then every pixel on the slider equates to 7.2 seconds.

With the slider, it’s easier to make big forward or backward jumps, but fine tuning is impossible. Especially when your input device is a wireless keyboard with a trackball, and you’re lying back on the couch enjoying the movie. I don’t understand is why none of the players I’ve seen have “fast forward” or “reverse” buttons. It seems like that’d be fairly easy to implement and then we could have the best of both worlds.