YouTube made a bit of noise yesterday with the introduction of a new video player that uses HTML5 standard, which (in theory) could enable browsers to render video without an installed plugin like Adobe’s Flash player. With the largest Flash video site in the universe now […]

YouTube made a bit of noise yesterday with the introduction of a new video player that uses HTML5 standard, which (in theory) could enable browsers to render video without an installed plugin like Adobe’s Flash player. With the largest Flash video site in the universe now playing around with an open standard, one might think that the end is nigh for the video plugin. But the inherent limitations of YouTube’s implementation just go to show why HTML5 won’t reach mainstream adoption anytime soon.

For one thing, there’s the question of ubiquity. Due to standards issues, not all browsers support YouTube’s HTML5 videos. Users could only test the player out if they were using Chrome, Safari, or Internet Explorer with Google’s ChromeFrame installed, because its HTML5 videos are encoded using H.264, which isn’t supported by Firefox and Opera. Standards around things like video codecs are slow to develop, and until they do, so an HTML5-only YouTube probably won’t be viable across all browsers anytime soon.

Despite requiring a plugin, Adobe Flash is the leading technology for web video today, with more than 75 percent of all worldwide streams, including YouTube’s. That’s because the Flash client is installed in some 98 percent of Internet-connected computers, and is also supported by a wide variety of mobile devices. As Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch said at NewTeeVee Live, HTML5 “is trying to do what Flash already does today.” So if YouTube were to move to HTML5, it would actually reduce the number of users that would be able to access its videos, whether they needed a plugin or not.

More importantly, the vast majority of web video advertising is created with Flash in mind, and this is apparent with YouTube’s HTML5 testing ground. Videos that the company monetizes are not viewable through HTML5, for the basic reason that there aren’t any ads available to show. With the video ad market just now starting to take off, and the vast majority of those ads being created in Flash, it will be difficult for a video publisher to transition to another format without seriously hurting potential ad revenues.

It’s still early days for HTML5, but despite YouTube’s dabbling there probably won’t be any large-scale implementations of video sites adopting it anytime soon. Without a critical mass of users that are actually able to view the videos, or advertisers to support them, there’s little reason for them to do so.

  1. From my own experience, Google’s HTML5 video implementation works fine, but it really seems not as fast as with Flash. And yes, what people are failing to understand is that Flash Platform enables far more than just “start/play/stop” with fancy buttons.

    HTML5 and open standards are great, but they’re far behind on features that Flash delivers. Also, the speed Flash Platform is evolving, is considerably greater than that of HTML5’s: http://tekkie.flashbit.net/flash/flash-platform-is-at-a-crossroads

    I’m afraid Google is trying to pull a scheme to prep the crowd for their Chrome OS. We’ve already heard that Flash/Silverlight is off that platform, so it does make sense.

    1. HTML5 is new and being an open standard, it won’t be long until people like me would start to chime in and develop with the technology. With a proprietary Flash, who could evolve it other than Adobe? So I’d put it like Adobe vs. “the rest of the world”.

  2. Ain,

    I’ve just checked and its the other way around, ChromeOS has a Flash player (10) built-in.

    Or maybe I haven’t been listening to the latest news…


  3. [...] Meskipun HTML5 sudah diujicobakan di Youtube, namun butuh waktu yang lama untuk menyingkirkan standar tertutup Adobe Flash. Tag:Adobe, Flash Video, Google, HTML5, Open [...]

  4. Completely bias article, attempting to protect the proprietary Adobe platform.

  5. @Craig Baker – I don’t see it as “attempting to protect” Adobe as much as it’s calling attention to the fact that HTML5 is a bad “standard”. It is insufficiently complete to guarantee compatibility, and it is more focused on locking in the current browser/producer hierarchy than on building a foundation for true innovation. I predict that the top 200 “HTML 5″ sites in the world will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary; they could just as easily have been coded with 2009-era (or 2006-era) tools than 2010+ ones.

    What HTML 5 does, as much as anything else, is build a technological “League of Nations”, which isn’t meant to really accomplish anything so much as its meant to preserve an outmoded power structure that otherwise would collapse under the weight of its own cruft. I only hope we can find a more peaceful, productive way to transition from HTML 5/4 to something that actually has a future.

    1. HTML 5 isn’t all bad, there’s plenty of useful(ish) new features such as canvasing and put/delete in forms.

    2. Cailean Babcock Friday, April 16, 2010

      What HTML5 does is provide an open, free platform to reproduce Flash functionality and finally allow content producers the ability to focus on delivering content in one or two formats across browsers rather than the 5 or so formats currently necessary to satisfy all users. It doesn’t need to be revolutionary, it needs to wrest the power of an important multimedia delivery platform away from the whims of a single, proprietary format dictated by a company that charges excessive amounts of money for bloated, buggy software.

      As for ad content, content producers and developers, including Google, have been doing just fine with simple HTML markup for many years before Flash became ubiquitous. Tell people that their development costs and target formats are going to be dramatically reduced and their lock-in to Adobe broken and I guarantee a lot of people are going to sit up and take notice (me, for one).

      This whole “focused on locking in the current browser/producer hierarchy than on building a foundation for true innovation” is not only a straw man, it’s barely coherent. Come to think of it, it might make better sense if you told me you were talking about Flash rather than HTML 5.

      1. You are an idiot. Flash is free. You can make anything you like that will run and create Flash files for free. How many times does it have to be said before you idiots will listen?

        Oh and HTML5 nowhere near replicates the functionality of Flash – nowhere near. Again, you’re an idiot.

  6. Advertising is one area that is often overlooked by proponents of HTML5. Today, all video ad servers and ad networks require deep integration with publisher’s video players. They require the ability to load 3rd party components, call 3rd party servers, parse and render XML, collect and pass data for targetting and tracking, render dynamic elements like overlays, and control the player itself (i.e. pause the content) while the ad is playing. Flash enables highly complex ad management plugins/components to be easily built and dynamically loaded into media players – and has therefore become the core of virtually all web-video advertising technology. Until HTML5 can match this type of rich contol/access, publishers who want to effectively monetize their content will not consider it a viable alternative.

    1. Cailean Babcock Friday, April 16, 2010

      This sounds like an ad for Adobe. I seriously wonder if Adobe has its employees trolling this page. All of the tools you have mentioned can easily be taken care of through any number of easy-to-use, well-documented scripting languages and free, turnkey open source projects.

      Not to mention that there are any number of high-profile companies (Google, for starters) whose single specialty is in delivering ready-made web advertisement to web developers. Flash doesn’t automatically deliver a roster of ready-made advertisers along with all of its other powerful features, does it?

      If you’re going to make fun of HTML5, you might as well make fun of every version of HTML since the inception of the web. These arguments comparing Flash to HTML don’t really make very much sense, since no matter what version of Flash you use, you’re going to ultimately have to embed it in an HTML page for delivery, anyway.

      1. And what? Steve Jobs is paying you?

        Actionscript is well documented, Flex is free and You don’t ultimately have to embed anything in an HTML page at all.

  7. I don’t think there will be any “killing & dying” scenario in the case of only video contents handling between HTML5 and Adobe Flash. Since HTML5 has more attractive features than just video contents handling in it, there shall be all the possible ways co-existing in the market – no single one winner. Who know? Adobe Flash keeps going with powerful features and various kinds of video formats, and HTML5 goes with open standard video formats (e.g. ogg) and embracing hybrid form. :)

  8. [...] watch videos without needing a proprietary plugin like Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft Silverlight, as we wrote yesterday, due to a lack of browser standards and a lack of advertising, it will be a while before HTML5 [...]

  9. [...] Zu einer Verabschiedung des HTML-5-Standards und vor allem den Einsatz in allen gängigen Browsern, ist aber in nächster Zeit nicht zu rechnen. [...]

  10. [...] isn’t yet supported by Firefox and Opera. That means that only about 25 percent of users can actually watch HTML5 video encoded in H.264, according to [...]


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