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YouTube: HTML5 Video Is No Match for Flash (Yet)

YouTube: HTML5 Video Is No Match for Flash (Yet)

Although YouTube has been encoding to H.264 since early 2007, most distribution is via their Flash player, although they do have an HTML5 player as well. The advantages of Flash for YouTube at the moment are:

  • Live Streaming (although almost nothing on YouTube is live streaming in that sense – it’s all progressive download). What Google means is control over buffering and dynamic quality of the files it serves up.
  • Content protection for the “Premium Content” demanded by the content owners, despite all kinds of DRM being pointless (don’t work) and annoy the legitimate user.
  • Encapsulation and Embedding. Flash is definitely easier for that and has better security.
  • Fullscreen Video. Tick. HTML5 players (mostly MP4 players) do not do Fullscreen video. Not that I use it often, but it’s an important feature to have.
  • Access to Camera and Microphone for interactive experiences, something not yet possible in HTML5

On the other hand, Hulu Plus kicks Hulu’s dependence on Flash for it’s iPad/iPhone application. (In fairness, you can do pretty much all of the above when you move from plug-in or native browser support to a custom application.)



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2 responses to “YouTube: HTML5 Video Is No Match for Flash (Yet)”

  1. Andrew Richards

    Eryk Vershen gave a very interesting presentation on HTTP Streaming at WWDC10 (the session is available on iTunes U with a free Apple Developer’s account). That technique answers all the challenges in your first bullet point. Well worth looking into.

  2. Hello Phil,
    As a developer I have been trying to voice these same issues for a long time. Even to you Phil. Coming from Google, I expect you take it more seriously.

    As a developer yourself (by proxy) I would have expected you to be more in touch with this. HTML5 video by design cannot replace a number of features in Flash. (Ie Open source means never capable of DRM)

    DRM is especially important.

    I know you are a big believer in no-drm future. But as a I work in Cinema distribution technologies and am familiar with the opinions and lengths the Hollywood content owners go to. Non-DRM premium content is absolutely never going to happen.

    And why the hell should it. DRM to me, I agree is not a real deterrent for these who want it free. BUT it is a perceivable deterrent. Like at a park festival, they put up crappy orange hip high walls. Easy to jump if you really want to. But in the end it says to the consumer. You need to goto the gate and pay for this content. Thats what DRM is at the end of the day and it does work…

    And we NEED it to work. Or say goodbye to Hollywood.

    Sure a $1 track that cost $1000-$50000 (depending on who made it) CAN cost $1. But a movie that cost $50,000,000 its a different ball game. You need to charge a reasonable amount ($5 probably more). And the higher cost means more convenient to simply steal. End users need to be reminded that they should pay. And if they CAN get it on any device they are likely to use but with DRM. Whats it matter.

    I like the fact that this pressure on Adobe has gotten the Flash platform to move along. But any sane technologist would know its all marketing behind Steves stance.

    Lets quickly examine that. Flash is OLD. Well C is old. Why did we not completely abandon C when C++ came out. Right tool for the right job. They are both very well used languages and have strong and weak points.

    Steve compares dropping flash to dropping the larger old style floppy for the new smaller style ahead of its time. This is like saying that GIF should have been unsupported by his operating system once the PNG spec was only announced. Its absurd. There is no reason to remove a technology from an operating system when a free plugin is available.

    Reliability, he has a point. But many Apple Apps crash. I found a repeatable bug on 4.0 in iOS today that crashed it, for example.

    The real worry here is the blind acceptance of what any sane well rounded developer would dismiss as crap. Many developers do dismiss Steve’s rant when I read their Blogs. But real developers also understand that you go where the market is. And for the time being (Until Android spreads it wings) its Apple iDevices.

    But people please. The Apple tech is great. Steve is full of shit. Lets move on.