The Five Key Myths About HTML5

I was preparing for a webinar last week and scanned 46 websites to see how many used HTML5 as the primary playback option for video. This was a mix of media sites (14), business to consumer sites (22) and business to business sites (10). The answer was 1 – Wikipedia – with YouTube offering HTML5 as an alternative to Flash. Even Apple – the sugar doesn’t melt in my mouth, we believe in open standards — poster child for HTML5 uses the QuickTime plug-in for displaying video on Apple.com.

That got me thinking; why would any site where video was mission critical use HTML5 today, or even in the near term? There’s no standardized way to protect their content, no streaming server that can efficiently dole the content out to multiple viewers on different browsers and no scheme for adaptive streaming. There isn’t even full support for all advertising servers.

Looking at it from the other direction, the installed base of HTML5 compatible browsers is only around 40-50%, depending upon who you ask, and you need to produce using at least two, perhaps three codecs to service those browsers. That made me realize that HTML5 is a FUD and media driven fiction that won’t be widely relevant for at least three or four years, and then only if the relevant parties make some hard decisions that they’ve as of yet shied away from.

So here are my five key myths about HTML5.

Myth 1.    Current Producers Hate Flash

As you may recall, HTML5 had very little mindshare until Apple introduced the iPad, and Apple president Steve Jobs attributed the lack of Flash support in the new device to the fact that Flash was an unstable CPU Hog that lacked security. Bloggers and media types who couldn’t pick the video tag out of a police lineup jumped on the story, and HTML5 came into the limelight

But were Job’s statements true? I deal with the performance aspects below, but a recent survey that I produced for StreamingMedia.com proved that user satisfaction with Flash was actually quite high. Specifically, in the research report entitled Supporting the iPad and HTML5: Timing, Motivations, Costs, and Scope, we surveyed 1,147 web and IT professionals on a variety of subjects, including satisfaction with Flash and Silverlight.

flash satisfaction.jpgTable 1. Satisfaction with Flash is quite high, thank you very much.

As you can see in Table 1, less than 2% of the 564 respondents who answered this question rated Flash as poor in performance, stability, security and end user satisfaction. Regarding Silverlight, the scores were even better, though the number of respondents were much fewer.

Certainly Flash has had its share of detractors, and not all of them are named Steve Jobs. Still, if the web producers actually using the technology shared these concerns, it would be reflected in the survey, and in migration to alternative technologies like Silverlight or even QuickTime.

But we’re seeing neither. Significantly, if you take the agenda-driven Apple, Microsoft and Wikipedia out of the picture, 42 of the 46 sites I surveyed used Flash, with Accenture using Windows Media. Does this make Flash like a technology in decline? Not to me, which means that widespread dissatisfaction with Flash is a myth.

Which leads us to myth number 2.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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