YouTube Announce Switch To HTML5 Video

YouTube has announced it will stop using Adobe Flash as the default technology behind its video player.

In an Engineering and Developers Blog post, the streaming giant announced that as of today, it will now use its new HTML5 video player by default in Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s IE11, Apple’s Safari 8, and in upcoming versions of Mozilla’s Firefox web browsers.

This move has been a long time coming for YouTube. In January 2010, four months before Steve Jobs’ now-infamous blog post slating Flash, Google announced that it had started testing its first iteration of a HTML5 video player with the public.

It has taken five years of refinement and “working with browser vendors and the broader community to close the gaps,” but it seems they have overcome the hurdles that prevented HTML5 video’s wider adoption – Particularity browser support for adaptive bitrate streaming, which automatically switches the quality of the video depending on how fast your internet connection is, and advanced content protection/DRM options such as Encrypted Media Extensions in HTML5.

However, most users; particularly those that have used Google’s Chrome browser for the past few years, will not notice any difference as many users have been utilized their HTML5 video player for some time now. But now it’s the default for all users with modern browsers.

YouTube - HTML5 Video Player

With this change Google promises “faster and smoother” video playback, as well as increased support for Google’s royalty-free VP9 codec which could cut YouTube’s bandwidth costs by up to 35 percent while making it easier for users with slower connections to stream 4K and 60fps video while providing an alternative to the expensive-to-license H.264 codec, which has a near-monopoly on video streaming formats for the web.

Some commentators have suggested this is ‘the death of Flash;’ however, almost every other video service on the web still uses the platform. Particularly those with advanced content protection needs like Netflix and Hulu. This is, however, an important step forward for HTML5 video and the technology behind an increasing number of HTML5 videos – MPEG-DASH.

Stephen Doble

From his London office, Stephen leads our new media industry coverage at Videoter.

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