YouTube Launches HTML5 Video Beta

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YouTube looks to be expanding beyond its Flash-based video foundation with the addition of HTML5 video support. The HTML5 standard supports video and audio playback without requiring users to install Adobe Flash on their computer.

"This means that users with an HTML5 compatible browser, and support for the proper audio and video codecs can watch a video without needing to download a browser plugin," the company said on its blog.

YouTube's HTML5 support is in a beta phase right now, so there are some limitations. It requires Web browsers that support h.264 and video tags, but doesn't support videos with ads, or captions and annotations.

Compatible Web browsers include Safari, Internet Explorer with ChromeFrame, and Google's Chrome. Users interested in trying out Flash-free YouTube videos need to join the YouTube HTML5 Video Player beta program.

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Comments

Jeff Gamet

More video sans Flash? Yes, please!

Lee Dronick

More video sans Flash? Yes, please!

Were there not alternatives to using Flash for video before HTML5?

JulesLt

There were a number of alternatives - like Quicktime or Windows Media Player or Real Player - but you couldn’t depend on them being installed - none of them ever really dominated, even WMP never dominated on Windows because a lot of corporate installations would exclude any media players.

Flash was the first near ubiquitous video player (and that is because it was a trojan horse - first it became a necessary thing to install, then it added video - and IT shops couldn’t take a version without video).

Substance

Great day for Web standards, and another nail in the coffin of Flash.  It still has a long way to go, but I’ve noticed a growing number of people pulling out their hammers and trying to put Flash out to pasture.

You can watch most videos on YouTube as H.264 instead of Flash simply adding “&fmt=18” to the end of any YouTube URL.  The file tends to be a little larger, but the quality is better too (especially when the uploader’s source video came from an old VHS tape).

Ryan

Watch Google put in proprietary MPEG-4 crap instead and make anyone who wants to build a browser pay bloody ransom to the MPEG group and Apple.

I for one hope Firefox refuses to give in to this larcenous plot and stands ground with Ogg Theora and Vorbis.

xmattingly

Great tip, Substance - thanks for sharing.

I’m certainly in favor of HTML/Ajax/whatever replacing a large chunk of simple or static Flash (such as video or rollover buttons), but it’ll be years down the road before Flash can be supplanted on interactivity with web standards.

I don’t know exactly why so many would propose to “drive a nail in Flash’s coffin” or whatever; it has its faults, but for the most part I think it’s been a great benefit for web interactivity. The idea that Flash is a trojan horse is wrong, too.

computerbandgeek

Flash is so popular because it’s extremely easy to create fancy websites with them, and easy to lock down content from 99% of users (a la Hulu). Unfortunately most of these web designers don’t use Macs and don’t realize what a dreadful experience it is to watch your Macbook hover a few inches above the table because the fans are spinning so fast after watching a tv show.

xmattingly

Unfortunately most of these web designers don?t use Macs

Well, that’s not true. There is plenty of Flash development being done on Macs - hard to say exactly how much on one vs. the other, but it’s a sizable percentage.

In any event, processor intensiveness is certainly one of those faults that I alluded to.

sxotto

Forgive my ignorance, but does Flash require less processor activity of other OS’s than of Mac’s? Just curious.

Unfortunately most of these web designers don?t use Macs and don?t realize what a dreadful experience it is to watch your Macbook hover a few inches above the table because the fans are spinning so fast after watching a tv show.

Substance

Forgive my ignorance, but does Flash require less processor activity of other OS?s than of Mac?s? Just curious.

Flash was optimized for Windows but not for any other OS.  So yes, there is a discernible performance difference between a large flash program running on Mac vs. Windows.

JulesLt

It requires less CPU on Windows. The Linux version performs about as well as the Mac version.

Since OS X moved from PowerPC CPUs to the same Intel x86, it’s obviously not the CPU type causing the problem. There are benchmarks that show that the OS X graphics layer is slower than Windows XP for basic 2D drawing (which isn’t surprising, as there are more layers of abstraction involved - put another way, when was the last time you saw an OS X app prevent the rest of the screen from being drawn). However, this is offset by performance of APIs like Core Animation - which I presume Flash does not use.

Basically, my suspicion is that Adobe have put a lot of effort into optimising Flash on Windows, in a way that hasn’t been done on smaller platforms - so rather than using OS X APIs to move a transparent image, it’s done using some cross-platform library.

Substance

Watch Google put in proprietary MPEG-4 crap instead and make anyone who wants to build a browser pay bloody ransom to the MPEG group and Apple.
I for one hope Firefox refuses to give in to this larcenous plot and stands ground with Ogg Theora and Vorbis.

This article summarizes the HTML 5 video debate pretty well:
HTML 5 Video Debate Explained

The author not only disposes a lot of myths surrounding both sides of the debate, his final question sums up the debate best: Why have a default video standard at all when there hasn’t been one for the image tag and look how well that worked out?

By not supporting any one format, no one is declared a winner by default.  Instead the choice is where it should be: it’s in the hands of users to decide which format to use and in the hands of content producers to offer their content in one or more formats that users want.

JulesLt

Agreed on that final point - try

As for the wider point - the ‘opposition’ were just as bad in terms of trying to ram an irrelevant video codec specification into the HTML spec - in particular a version that has actually removed irrelevant tags (i.e. styling tags duplicated in CSS).

Trying to achieve browser compatibility is a good aim, but trying to ram that through the wrong spec / group is the wrong way to do it.

What’s actually needed here is a W3C browser spec group - i.e. one that specifies ‘profiles’ (i.e. a set of versions of HTML, CSS, SVG, JavaScript, and image, audio and video formats that a given profile should implement - along with a set of tests that must be passed to use the W3C stamp).

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