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Apple Has Already Won the Flash-HTML5 War

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A majority of web video is now HTML5-ready, according to new research from MeFeedia, showing that web standards — and Apple (s AAPL) — are winning the day when it comes to how video is delivered and viewed online. The research shows that the amount of video viewable in an HTML5 video player has doubled in the last five months and now accounts for 54 percent of all video content online.

It’s important to note that HTML5 video is not replacing Flash video on the web, but augmenting it; most HTML5 videos today are available through a universal embed code that auto-detects the device requesting the video and serves up the appropriate version. That means for most of these videos, there are at least two versions — one Flash and one HTML5  — stored online.

It’s not only HTML5-ready web browsers that are pushing the envelope; it’s a multitude of mobile devices, which have caused publishers to rethink the formats for delivering online videos. The biggest proponent in the move to HTML5 video has been Apple, which refused to support Adobe’s Flash (s ADBE) on its iOS devices — including the iPhone and iPad — meaning that publishers that wanted to have videos on those devices would have to turn to standards-based, in-browser delivery.

The launch of the iPad, in particular, has been instrumental in leading this change. Despite the iPhone being HTML5-only for years, the amount of video available through the nascent web standard in January was just 10 percent. But owing to the iPad’s larger screen real estate and its propensity to be used as a video consumption device, many more publishers were forced to jump on board. At the time it was launched, just one-quarter of web video was available in an HTML5 video player. Now it’s up to more than half of all web videos.

The iPad has been the biggest driver of HTML5 video, but all mobile devices should benefit from the change. Despite the fact that newer Android-based (s goog) devices come with Flash pre-installed, theoretically giving them access to all the web’s video, our own tests have shown that it’s not always a great experience. In fact, sometimes it’s shockingly bad.

While launching the video in a separate Flash player might help, Flash is still a processor hog and mobile devices don’t really have the gigahertz, nor the spare battery power, to keep Flash happy. HTML5, which delivers video natively (without extra software) is leaner. That’s bad news for Adobe, which has been banking on embedding the Flash player into mobile and connected TV devices. But if a native HTML5 implementation is available for most videos online, it might be smarter for those videos to be delivered in HTML5 than in Flash. Why waste cycles and power if a device doesn’t need to?

It seems that even Adobe has conceded this point, recently rolling out an HTML5 video player widget that serves up standards-based video to devices that don’t support Flash. The widget works by trying to serve up HTML5 video, but defaults to Flash when the standard isn’t supported. With mobile viewing growing in importance, that delivery scenario may be the future for most web video, which leaves Adobe Flash hanging on by its fingernails (or rather, a widget).

To learn more about Adobe’s plans for HTML5, come see CTO Kevin Lynch at this year’s NewTeeVee Live on Nov. 10 in San Francisco.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Cameron Russell.

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47 Responses to “Apple Has Already Won the Flash-HTML5 War”

  1. doesn’t change the fact that my ipad couldn’t handle msnbc’s election page because the whole not supporting flash nonsense. flash is more than a video player writing tool.

  2. el honcho

    The problem is not so much whether Flash is better or not, it’s that HTML 5, particularly the stuff people want to use such as video, is so poorly implemented. A few desktop browsers support it, but they are all buggy in different ways. Mobile? Pffffhhhtttt. HTML5 video sucks so bad it makes me weep. I’m being asked to develop mobile video solutions and the support is so half-assed and buggy on everything ( ipad and iphone at least recognize the video tag and play without too much fuss ), especially android devices. As many others have said, it will be years away before it is as reliable as Flash.

    Flash might suck, but HTML5 sucks 100x more.

  3. Brett Clapper

    Flash isn’t the future obviously, Adobe has said that, but Adobe Air is. Ease of development and the fact that Air can be used to make applications on Android will ensure that the little green robot and Adobe always have a big place in the tech world. These people that think Apple can kill Flash need to stop riding Jobs’ nuts.

  4. Avshalom

    This 54% is made up (potentially by Apple fanboys trying to attract more click on their blogs and add some ad $$).

    Use a product such as an iPhone and you will see what the reality is.

    Stop lying, and repeating false figures you find on other apple fanboys websites. Pfff

  5. That’s great news Ryan! That means that half of the video on the web can be stolen like a JPEG picture. Intellectual property owners will love that! Who needs to pay anymore?

    But that’s not Steve Job’s problem. It took me seconds to grab the content on the HTML5 demo website.

  6. YouTube has said HTML is not ready … Flash plays h.264 and is better quality than vp6, that is why videos are being encoded more in h.264 as time goes on. I would say maybe 2% of all video is being played in HTML5.

    HTML5 Video is Not Ready for the Web, W3C’s Le Hegaret ~

    “What he found was that on the iPod Touch 4G (roughly identical hardware to the iPhone 4 sans 3G modem), a simple HTML5 canvas of a ball bouncing on a paddle rendered at a choppy 22 fps in Apple Mobile Safari browser. What’s worse, the animation stopped entirely when zooming out or in.

    By contrast the Nexus One averaged around 40 fps when using HTML5 in its built-in Chrome-derivative browser. The animation felt slightly sluggish, but was tolerable. And zooming out and in no longer stopped the animation.

    Finally, Mr. Black tested Flash 10.1 running on Nexus One (in-browser). The results were a silky-smooth 57 fps, near the target of 60 fps. What’s more, after running the test for 10 minutes, the Flash animation consumed only half the battery that running the equivalent HTML5 animation did.

    Mr. Black’s overall conclusions are straightforward — on Android phones HTML5 is a tough sell versus Flash 10.1, given the battery performance and slightly slower framerates. And on the iPhone 4 it goes from okay to downright pathetic. He concludes:”

    Flash runs both faster and uses less battery life than HTML5 …

    HTML5 is heavily dependent on JavaScript and if companies try to push it as a “standard” that only has their own best interests in mind, it will as fragmented as JavaScript became across browsers.

  7. Apple’s hard stand on this issue will be the best thing for the web long term. Flash is a memory hog. This was the only way Adobe was going to listen. They have known they had this problem for years and should have been working on a solution.

  8. It may be 54% of all video. But it’s probably safe to guess that somewhere around 80% of all video traffic is to view probably 20% of all online video. So, your 54% statistic means nothing, when only 10% of the high traffic content is HTML5 ready.

    • Friend of mine recently tested HTML5 stats for his boss who was pissed that his new iPad was not playing everything on the company website. (Poor guy tried to weasel himself out from needing to rebuild the website.) It turns out 54% might be very close, his count was about 50/50 for Flash/HTML5. So unless you use an iPhone or iPad don’t even bother to comment, lot of the content changes only when the site detects iOS product, the HTML5 files are on the server even you can’t see them.

      At least I learned something from his study, building a website can be a huge job because every page should work with every browser and device.

  9. Aristophrenia

    Wow – iv’e seen some crap in my time but this sure takes the cake – just pathetic- really poor.

    Lets look at this another way shall we – Flash is going to be / is already embedded in TV, phones, desktop, tablets – everywhere along with air and apps – meaning i can still buy any TV, phone, computer i want and have all the benefits without being boxed into Apple peripherals – without the massive benefits of flash – wow – thanks ??

    More importantly flash 11 supports full 3D – take a look at it – it will blow your friggen mind – its THAT GOOD. Combine this with Peer 2 Peer Cirrus tech, game controller API’s and native sockets all to any device and you have the absolute future of the web right there – hands done. But not on Apple.

    Oh wait – instead you want to use a text mark up langauge to compete with this ? Are you people OUT OF YOUR MINDS – my god – text mark up langauge competing with a custom built 3D hardware accelerated,…….etc. Just pathetic.

  10. Urm, Flash is not just for video, HTML5 is years away from providing the same level of graphical tools as Flash, also, HTML5 does not allow any form of DRM, which is an issue for some content providers.

    Now we’re seeing the market shift away from being so iPhone focussed towards Android, which supports flash video, people are going to stop blaming sites for not supporting devices, but devices for not supporting sites.

  11. Flash is not only about video but also about thousands of edutainment applications and games.

    Kizz TV is available on PC & Mac running Windows, MacOS and Linux as well as Android tabs, but not on Ipad nor iphone nor Ipod… unless Flash seing granted by Steve Jobs.

    • The war is over, Will. The world is rapidly converting to HTML-compliant videos. An app from Skyfire is now available to view legacy videos without a Flash engine on your iOS devices. It’s not perfect, but I’m sure it will improve and I expect that other vendors will offer competitive products.

      The other happening: another zero-day vulnerability in Adobe Flash. The vulnerability affects Flash Player on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris. The current Flash Player for Android is also vulnerable.

      Steve Gibson talks about this in his latest Security Now! podcast (transcript at ). Steve notes that Adobe’s quarterly update program is absurd: we would have to wait until 2/8/2011 to get a fix for this bug. Surely an emergency update will be forthcoming.

      It would be absurd for Apple to allow Flash to be included in Safari. They would be at the mercy of Adobe to deal with these zero-day bugs — from a company that *still* thinks that quarterly updates to software are good enough.

      Apple is right to nix Flash. Safe alternatives are already available. If you want the “full web experience” of Flash Player bugs, you need to get another smart phone.

  12. Mark Hernandez

    Wow, Ryan. I just assumed this clickbait piece of yours was written by Darrell Etherington. You can do better than this.

    You obviously don’t care about being truthful or accurate and are going for the entertainment value. I was hoping Om Malik would improve the writing on the Apple side of GigaOM. But it’s very clear that no one pays attention to the comments from the people in the tech industry who read here, and you guys just look at the click count.

    Every last one of us knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that your article’s title is misleading. Look directly at it and admit it to yourself.

    • Ryan Lawler

      I’ll let Darrell defend himself here, but…

      If Apple’s purpose was to disintermediate Flash’s dominance as a web video delivery mechanism, then it has most certainly succeeded. A Matt Liotta points out above (even though I’m sure he’s trying to disagree with me), publishers need to find a way to reach consumers viewing content on the iPad, and HTML5 is the way to do it.

      Adobe’s Flash pitch used to be that it was the way to ensure that all viewers could watch the same video, regardless of platform. That’s no longer true.

  13. Honestly I haven’t seen native HTML video on PC except the demos. Is this report about mobile video? I just find it too hard to believe. But that’s PC experience. Mobile? Considering I am on iPhone it means no video more then half of the time but I got used to it and not using my iPhone for rich internet content like music and video and games in the web.

    Anyways Apple won? No Apple started the war and it is too early to say but I don’t see Apple wining. They like Nazi made blitzkrieg that they will be loosing now repeating Apple history all over again Flash or now Flash.

  14. What’s the percentage of HTML5 video that uses the Ogg Theora codec to be viewed on Firefox & browser? I imagine it’s very small, as people confuse H.264 with HTML5 video. It still seems a long way to go for video to be viewed by all audiences.

    Meanwhile tv networks are the big hold outs, not wanting to switch to HTML5 video when it doesn’t have any way to protect the content.

  15. Bizarre war-mentality….

    QuickTime trailers were first to use H.264, but Adobe Flash Player made it pragmatic and popular.

    This means that a site which already used H.264 via a Flash UI would just have to create a separate Apple UI to stream the same content.

    Meanwhile, the biggest desktop “HTML5” browser (Firefox) does not do H.264/VIDEO, and the biggest mobile browser (Opera) does not do H.264/VIDEO either.

    There’s a confusion between codec, interface layer, and HTML invocation. Three separate items… and then there’s backend support (streaming method, rights-management, eg) and feature support (advertisement, annotation, analytics, etc).

    Making some war may make for more clicks, but it’s a very distorted view of what’s actually going on out there.


    • Matt Liotta

      Absolutely correct. If you are a publisher that uses H.264 and Flash, it is extremely easy to support HTML5 delivery in addition to Flash. HTML5 can’t win a war if every publish that supports it also supports Flash. Video is not going to decide HTML5’s or Flash’s future.

      On the other hand, my iPad is my go to device for casual browsing. If I encounter a Flash site –which of course doesn’t work– I simply skip it. Publishers everywhere should be looking at their analytics to find out how many people are doing exactly that. Write an article about how many people are doing that and you might have something.

      • Ryan Lawler

        Matt, I think you’re (in part) arguing my point here. Publishers can either get on board with HTML5 or not, but if they want to reach the iPad audience (and increasingly I think they do), HTML5 is the way to do it.

    • Hey jd,
      It’s clear that you are passionate about this debate. I saw you last time, saw your post on today, and here now. Although the title of the post is dramatic, the actual post is not really. The article states quite clearly “It’s important to note that HTML5 video is not replacing Flash video on the web, but augmenting it;”.

      As someone whose company uses Adobe products, I do not expect the death of anything. I expect HTML5 will be a growth area for Adobe’s future as many sites are designed with Adobe tools. Your comment makes it appear that “HTML5” video is not experiencing huge adoption – I doubt you intended that.

    • HTML5 vs Flash is distracting from the real game – open vs closed. And HTML5 does not necessarily imply open.

      Some facts:
      “HTML5 video” is a term intended to confuse. The video codec that HTML5 uses is predominantly h.264. Note that Flash supports playback of h.264 content too. To be fair, if you wish to call h.264 wrapped in HTML5 as HTML5 video, you must also call h.264 wrapped in Flash as Flash video, and bear in mind that both refer to the exact same video. The wrapping is of little significance (if you are not stupid enough to buy into the Adobe bashing by Apple). More importantly, h.264 is licensed technology – meaning a group of companies all are smiles as $$$$ trickle into their accounts for each h.264 device being bought.

      There are open (license free) technology options available, but do not yet have mass appeal (or sufficient/compelling content). And I can only hope that changes.

      Also, one needs to understand that Apple is no open/standards messiah, notwithstanding the HTML5 pitch that Steve Jobs does at each of his gigs. No, Adobe is not a saint either. And nor is Google, nor Microsoft. In fact, saints don’t run businesses.

      But independent blogs such as this are expected to take a neutral view (no, not a saintly view) – and point out the technical facts from the public posturing, thus separating the wheat from the chaff. And yes, businesses constantly endeavor to package chaff claiming it to be wheat.

      I found that this website had, sometime ago, played host to a very sensible article on this subject. Allow me to
      remind you of it:

  16. It might not be 54% but those saying that Flash still rules must remember that iPad has been out for less than a year and iPhone for three. Now new Macs like Macbook Air are coming without Flash pre-installed (although they can run Flash). Considering that stats show 1 in 5 computers sold in the U.S are Macs (and that’s NOT counting iPads which are already selling equal to Macs) and that a large percentage of PCs are sold to businesses (including some as cash registers, my doctor has one PC used as ear checking device) websites that ignore HTML 5 are foolish — a ear checking device isn’t going to look at your website and buy stuff.

  17. As long as HTML5 does not offer a secure video streaming system similar to Flash’s RTMPE or RTMPS, 100% of video worth watching (movies and TV) will not be made available in HTML5.

    Right now HTML5 = “please steal our video content”

  18. Steve W, Indialantic FL

    “…most HTML5 videos today are available through a universal embed code that autodetects the device requesting the video and serving up the appropriate version.”

    That’s the problem. It detects the device, not whether Flash is installed. If a PC is capable of running Flash, it will not be offered HTML5 if it does not have Flash installed.

  19. So what you’re saying is that half of video sites offer HTML 5 as an alternative to Flash rather than as a replacement? So that means half of all sites don’t care about HTML 5 at all?

    And, looking at the article, this isn’t really HTML5 at all but rather H.264 codec… which Flash plays as well. Also this apparently doesn’t include any adult sites.

    Sorry to interrupt your wet dream. Apple remain a minority, Flash is still dominant and your article is rubbish.

    You may return to your wishful thinking.

  20. I don’t know about other sites, but when reading tech sites, most of the video available works on my ipad. And this isnt just youtube stuff. Most porn sites even work on the ipad. 54% though? I kind of doubt it, but its probably at least 30%

  21. I don’t agree w/ the author of this article. YouTube hasn’t fully switched; and other major sources of video (i.e. Netflix) hasn’t adopted HTML5 either. It’d be nice to understand how the author came up with 54%.

  22. James Goddard

    Based on personal experience I’d say that this falls under the 54% of all statistics are made up. I’d say that unless I am specifically searching yt, then less than 10% of the videos I come across are non-flash.