YouTube Puts Another Nail in Flash's Coffin with HTML5 on the Desktop

YouTube put another nail if Flash's coffin this week with the announcement that it is dropping Adobe's media format as the default for videos in favor of HTML5 on computers. The change means Flash-based content will be available at even fewer places online, pushing the format farther into obscurity.

YouTube switches to HTML5, gives Flash the kiss of deathYouTube switches to HTML5, gives Flash the kiss of death

HTML5 isn't anything new to YouTube. The company started supporting the format a few years ago for mobile devices, but didn't make the same jump on the desktop because of technical limitations.

YouTube Engineering Manager Richard Leider said,

At the time, there were limitations that held it back from becoming our preferred platform for video delivery. Most critically, HTML5 lacked support for Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) that lets us show you more videos with less buffering.

Over the last four years, we've worked with browser vendors and the broader community to close those gaps, and now, YouTube uses HTML5 <video> by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8 and in beta versions of Firefox.

That's a big blow for Adobe's Flash Player because one of the main reasons users install it is gone. With HTML5 as the primary format for YouTube content, many computer users won't even notice if Flash isn't installed on their computer.

Apple stopped including Flash as part of its standard Mac OS installation years ago and never supported it on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Google doesn't offer a Flash installer for its Android mobile device platform, either, leaving Adobe's media platform out in the cold in the mobile space.

Dumping Flash comes with some big security benefits, too. End users who no longer need Flash installed can cut out a major malware threat on their computers—Flash has long been a favorite target for hackers because it's so heavily riddled with security flaws they can use to push malware to victim's computers.

YouTube's announcement happened to coincide with Adobe releasing emergency patches for Flash to block big security flaws hackers have been actively using to push ad fraud malware to Windows PCs. Adobe released one update last week, and followed up with another this week on the same day Apple blocked unpatched versions from running on OS X.

Announcing a full-scale switch to HTML5 means YouTube is more easily accessible on other devices, too. Mr. Leider said, "The benefits of HTML5 extend beyond web browsers, and it's now also used in smart TVs and other streaming devices."

In other words, YouTube has ensured its content will be viewable on pretty much every platform from smartphones to computers gaming consoles to smart televisions.

For Adobe, this is a hard blow that Flash won't be able to rebound from. Flash has been on a downward spiral out of relevancy for years, and losing YouTube will only speed up that process.

Flash's last big supporter also happens to be the industry that pushed it as a defacto standard years ago: the porn industry. Online porn has been heavily invested in Flash-based video content, and considering how big the industry is, that gives Flash an ongoing place in the online media market.

That said, the adult entertainment world has been making the move to HTML5 as well, which means the final nail in Flash's coffin is coming soon. Once the porn industry drops Flash completely, Adobe's platform will be relegated to special purpose kiosks and embedded devices, which is a market the company is already focusing on.

Apple and Microsoft moved on from Flash long ago, Google has done the same, and even Adobe conceded the fight and declared HTML5 the winner. With YouTube turning its back on the platform, there's even fewer reasons for laptop and desktop computer users to keep Flash installed.

Goodbye, Flash. Your security and stability issues won't be missed at all.