Apple Has Already Won the Flash-HTML5 War

flash

A majority of web video is now HTML5-ready, according to new research from MeFeedia, showing that web standards — and Apple — 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 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 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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