Skip to content

24 ways to impress your friends

Vote up?

Tab Atkins

Note: if a browser returns “no” for .canPlayType(), it’s an old implementation. The spec currently requires the empty string for “I know I can’t play this” (because the empty string is == false, so testing for the value is easy).

The other two values, “maybe” and “probably”, are indeed pretty weird, but they’re a direct result of the weirdness surrounding audio formats and containers. To put it simply, it’s nearly impossible to tell if you can actually play a given file without just passing it to your decoder and seeing if it throws an error.

So, at best browsers can offer a “probably” for when they’re pretty sure a particular file is playable. “maybe” is for the even more uncertain cases, like when you specify the type as a container format without giving the codec. The browser may support decoding the container, but without more knowledge it can’t give you an answer as to whether the file itself is playable.

So, yeah, it’s kinda weird, but it’s a good compromise with reality. Just remember that the “I know I can’t play it” case can just be treated like it returned false, as long as you’re not using ===. Something easy like “if( (new Audio()).canPlayType(type) ) {…}” will work fine.