Why Flash Still Plays “Critical Role” for YouTube

From my general perspective, HTML5 has been lots of smoke with very little fire, in part because it’s not yet a complete spec that meets the needs of large scale video publisher. Though Google/YouTube has been an avid HTML5 proponent, a recent blog post from YouTube programmer John Harding identifies why YouTube won’t abandon Flash any time soon. Entitled “Flash and the HTML5 <video> Tag,” the author states that “the <video> tag does not currently meet all the needs of a site like YouTube. He then goes on to list HTML5 feature deficits like:

– The lack of a single supported codec.

– The lack of “robust video streaming” with “fine control over over buffering and dynamic video quality.”

– The lack of content protection.

– The lack of an easy, and full featured mechanism to embed an HTML5 player in another web site.

– The inability to plya video fullscreen.

– The lack of support for webcams and microphones.

The article concludes. “While HTML5’s video support enables us to bring most of the content and features of YouTube to computers and other devices that don’t support Flash Player, it does not yet meet all of our needs. Today, Adobe Flash provides the best platform for YouTube’s video distribution requirements, which is why our primary video player is built with it.”

None of Mr. Harding’s comments are new or particularly surprising; most objective observers have been noting them for months. Still, like the old Paine Webber TV advertisements, when YouTube speaks, everyone listens. These deficits are real and signficant, and will keep most large video publishers from supporting HTML5 to the exclusion of Flash in the short or even mid term. 

About Jan Ozer

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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. I am a contributing editor to Streaming Media Magazine, writing about codecs and encoding tools. I have written multiple authoritative books on video encoding, including Video Encoding by the Numbers: Eliminate the Guesswork from your Streaming Video (https://amzn.to/3kV6R1j) and Learn to Produce Video with FFmpeg: In Thirty Minutes or Less (https://amzn.to/3ZJih7e). I have multiple courses relating to streaming media production, all available at https://bit.ly/slc_courses. I currently work as www.netint.com as a Senior Director in Marketing.

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