YouTube Weighs In On Flash vs HTML5 Video

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Between the iPad’s blocking of Flash earlier this year and the huge wave of ad campaigns, open letters, and debates that followed, it seems that everyone has an opinion on the merits (or lack thereof) of Flash on the modern web. Today, YouTube software engineer John Harding took to the site’s official blog to weigh on the current status of HTML5 video support. The gist of it: while HTML5 is great, it can’t do everything YouTube (or most mainstream video sites) need.

Harding explains his thesis point by point, beginning with the need for a standard video format for HTML5. Politics, codec quality, and patent disputes have kept HTML5 from adopting a single standard for video content (H.264, the industry standard, has licensing issues). Google hopes to remedy this with the WebM project and VP8, which were unveiled last month. But VP8 is still a long way from becoming the industry standard.

Next, Harding spells out issues with video streaming — namely, the fact that HTML5 doesn’t really have anything that matches Flash when it comes to dynamically adjusting quality control and buffering. There’s also the fact that HTML5 can’t offer protect copyrighted content from being copied (Flash can through RTMPE). And there isn’t a way to take an HTML5 video and embed it on another site, at least not the way YouTube does with annotations and other associated data. Other issues include the inability to play HTML5 full-screen, and no standard for Camera and Microphone access from the browser.

Of course, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. YouTube started offering an HTML5 video player earlier this year, but the default player is still in Flash. And Google has made it quite clear that despite its general advocacy of open standards, it believes there’s still quite a bit of life left in Flash. In fact, it’s even baking it into its Chrome browser.

Image via Justinsomnia on Flickr

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