Today, Adobe announced the immediate availability of Flash Media Server 4. My buddy Tim Siglin did a wonderful job reviewing the new features in this article at StreamingMedia.com, or you can read the press release here.
Here’s a partial list of new features:
– HTTP based Dynamic Streaming
– Peer to Peer delivery
– IP Multicast support
The second and third features are the most important to corporate and smaller web sites. Peer to Peer allows viewers to share video with each other, resulting in lower distribution costs for the streaming provider and better quality of service for the viewers. Multicast allows multiple viewers on the same network to share the same stream – just like an analog TV signal – which is the most efficient of all techniques for streaming.
Not to beat a dead horse, but these are additional features that HTML5 video delivery needs to support to reach feature parity with Flash. Microsoft either has or will soon have all these features, placing it waaaay ahead of HTML5 as well.
Here’s a post from the Silverlight team regarding their thoughts about the respective roles of HTML5 and Silverlight. Here’s the gist of it:
On the web, the purpose of Silverlight has never been to replace HTML; it’s to do the things that HTML (and other technologies) couldn’t in a way that was easy for developers to tap into. Microsoft remains committed to using Silverlight to extend the web by enabling scenarios that HTML doesn’t cover. From simple “islands of richness” in HTML pages to full desktop-like applications in the browser and beyond, Silverlight enables applications that deliver the kinds of rich experiences users want. We group these into three broad categories: premium media experiences, consumer apps and games, and business/enterprise apps.
At best, the HTML5 video tag will co-exist with Flash and Silverlight, providing very baseline functionality with higher level features provided by Flash and Silverlight. On the other hand, you really have to wonder why bother with HTML5-based video, since you’ll have to support Flash or Silverlight anyway, both to access features like those presented above and in the Microsoft blog post (and many others), and to serve legacy browsers. So at worst, the video tag-related portion of HTML5 may simply fade away, outside discrete applications like serving iOS devices.
I think it’s time that the streaming industry recognized that, at least as regards to video, the HTML5 committee is chasing its tail, fighting a battle that it can never win. Lots of bright people focusing on a problem they’ll never adequately solve, with their efforts best targeted elsewhere. Kind of like Ogg Theora, but with Steve Jobs doing their PR, so HTML5 got lots more attention.
As always, it’s important to distinguish between activity and accomplishment. Considering that it’s been in the works for about six years, there’s been lots of the former with the HTML5 video tag, very little of the latter.