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Flash v HTML5 Video There are always battles being fought between existing and emerging technologies, and one currently capturing the headlines here at vzaar is Flash vs. HTML5.

Our business is all about delivering videos, so making sure we use the best technology to do this is a pretty important decision.

As with every case of this type, there are pros and cons to both approaches. I’ll outline the key points that helped us decide how to get the most from the two technologies.


Flash is well established as a video delivery platform. Way back in 2002 Macromedia release the first iteration of flash player – Flash Player 6 – with support for video playback. Demand for online video has been growing ever since, and Flash Player has been constantly evolving to keep pace.

As a result of this development Flash now boasts RTMP and RTMPe playback.

Benefits of using Flash video

Secure Video Streaming

RTMP stand for Real Time Messaging Protocol, with the ‘e’ meaning encrypted. This is the most secure way to stream your videos. In a nutshell, RTMPe lets Flash Media Server – Adobe’s rich media server, designed to serve video and other assets to Flash applications – deliver encrypted chunks of the video to the viewer, just in time for them to be played back on the users device. These chunks are then deleted after watching, so the whole file is never left exposed on the viewer’s computer and is much less susceptible to download and theft. This video explains in a bit more detail.

Browser Support

Another positive for Flash is it runs in a virtual machine. In other words, Flash player does all the processing of any Flash file, independently of the browser that is displaying the content.

Most modern browsers are becoming a lot more consistent with how they handle web content, but there are still differences between them. These differences are why a web page can look different if you call it up in two different browsers.

The Flash Player virtual machine bypasses many of these differences and gives users an almost identical experience on all browsers.

This is also how Flash can play video on older browsers that are not themselves capable of playing a video file. It simply does all the work itself.

Mobile Delivery

The big down side of Flash is that it doesn’t work on mobile or tablets. When smart phones started taking over the planet, there were a number of devices that ran a version of Flash Player, but this only really served to demonstrate that Flash and mobile don’t mix. Because mobile phones aren’t as powerful as a desktop computer, they were only capable of running a “Lite” version of Flash, which in turn, was incapable of running many Flash applications.

Users trying to access Flash content on their phones were often greeted by an error message or a blank square where the content should have been. When the Flash application did load, it would likely run very slowly, and have a UI designed for mouse based interaction instead of touch.

In 2011, soon after Apple publicly stated they weren’t going to support Flash on any of their iOS devices, Adobe announced the end of Flash for mobile. As a result, whilst Flash is a very effective online video delivery tool on the desktop, it’s pretty much useless for handheld devices.

With video becoming increasingly mobile accessing to hand held, these mobile consumers are critical to our clients. For this reason above all others, Flash is no longer the one stop shop for video delivery.


The Term HTML5 refers to the 5th version of the Hyper Text Markup Language, first released by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C in 2008. It’s the markup language used to create web pages. The key points – from our point of view at least – that separate HTML5 from version 4 are the inclusion of audio and video tags. These allow a web developer to add a video directly to the web page, without the need for a third party plugin like Flash.

HTML5 didn’t really take off until 2011 when Flash ended mobile support. By then it had had time to bed in and worked through the early teething problems. When the mobile Rich Internet Application (RIA) market opened up, HTML5 was ready and waiting to plug the gap.

Benefits of html5 video

Mobile Delivery

About 80% of browsers – both mobile and desktop – now support HTML5 video. Critically, both Android and iOS are included in this 80%. This is why it was a no brainer decision for us to add HTML5 video support. Without it we’d basically be ignoring the two top mobile platforms.

HTML5 is definitely the up and coming technology. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding it and development driving it. In the not too distant future it may be the only technology required to play video, but at present it still has some omissions which mean it can’t yet cover all bases.

Browser Support

The first issue is the remaining 20% of browsers that don’t support HTML5 video. As a video hosting platform, our customers expect their videos to play on pretty much every internet connected device out there, not just 80% of them.

Secure Video Streaming

The second issue is security. At this point, there’s no method in place for securing videos delivered using HTML5. The video file is transferred to the viewer’s device openly, and is very easy to intercept, download and steal. For content owners who wish to keep control of their assets, this is a pretty critical point against HTML5.

Some big industrial names have been lobbying for the inclusion of a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system in HTML5, which would overcome the security issue. However, there’s also a number organisations fighting against such systems claiming that it would basically be a plug-in all of its own and therefore in conflict with HTML5’s goal of plugin free video delivery.

At this point we don’t know which side is going to win out, but we’ll definitely be keeping a keen eye out for any signs of an outcome.

Which is best?

Neither Flash or HTML5 has all the answers, but equally neither can be ignored.

Enabling videos to play back as smoothly as possible on pretty much any capable internet connected device, that means drawing upon the strengths of both technologies.

Flash HTML5 Comparison Table

The good news is, you don’t really have to choose between the two. We’ll work out which method is best for you and automatically use it. We continue to use Flash for secure playback and to overcome compatibility issues with older browsers, whilst simultaneously pitting HTML5 against the mobile and tablet challenge.

I do believe, though, that HTML5 will play an ever more prominent role in our player development. Delivering to mobile and tablets was reason enough to embrace the technology as it stands, but if DRM becomes possible, and as the supported browser percentages goes up, we’ll definitely be placing increased importance on this fresh and evolving approach.

Additional Resources

Adobe Flash Player Real Time Messaging Protocol HTML5 Player HTML5    

What’s Adobe up to?

article by:

Evi one of our techies attended ‘Adobe Flash Camp 2010 in Bucharest’ last Thursday and has come back with some thoughts he wanted to share…

Last week I attend the Adobe Flash Camp in Romania and I received some interesting hints about what to soon expect from Adobe and what effects this would have on our industry.

Flash Player on Mobile device Mike Chambers, Principal Product Manager for developer relations for the Flash Platform at Adobe, has confirmed that development of Flash for iPhone is dead. (Read more: Adobe throws in the towel on Flash for iPhone).

Adobe Platform Evangelist Lee Brimelow indicated Monday that Adobe’s efforts to bring Flash capabilities to Smartphone’s are a result of substantial support from Apple’s major rivals.

“We are able to get tremendous performance on Android devices because Google and the various handset manufacturers have chosen to work closely with us to provide the best possible experience to the end user,”

Though Brimelow declined to give a precise release date for Flash Player 10.1, recent comments from Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen indicate that it will come in time to help developers release compatible products in the second half of 2010. For example, he told Fox Business News last week that Adobe has a number of excited partners who are working aggressively with the company to bring Flash to their mobile devices.

“So companies like Google and RIM and Palm are going to be releasing versions of Flash on Smartphone’s and tablets in the second half of the year,”

(Ref.: Top Tech News)

Adobe has pretty amazing plans for its Flash Player, especially for its mobile version, it’s not just about actual platform coverage, but development tools that will have new features like hardware accelerated processing, multi-touch and so on, you can already have an idea about new ActionScript language additions if you looking at recently published beta docs. One of the biggest announcements Adobe did last week here is that Flex for Mobile devices would be available somewhere this year, as understood we should expect it somewhere this summer. Adobe obviously had to make this move, especially now when it’s rival Microsoft came up with new Silverlight version and development tools for Windows Mobile 7.

Changes in Video processing While we are all expecting proper flash video support on mobile devices to appear this summer, Google are to open source On2’s $124.6m video codec (Source: The Register). For so long, video on the Internet was pretty straight forward; you used Adobe Flash, with its 95% plus market share, and that was that. Then things changed. The next Web standard, HTML 5, came along, but it didn’t spell out that Flash or anything else would be the video codec standard.

Then, Apple refused to have anything to do with Flash on its ‘i’ family of devices. Now it seems Google may be open-sourcing the VP8 video codec. Internet video is about to get a lot more complicated (Ref: ComputerWorld).

Whatever its intentions with the On2 codec are, when it comes to the issue of free and open video playback, Google has spent the past few months playing both sides of the fence. Along with Opera and Mozilla, Google attempted to include the free and open Ogg Theora codec as a requirement of the HTML5 video tag. But its Chrome browser uses both Ogg Theora and the patent-tied H.264 codec, and Google has received criticism from the likes of Mozilla for continuing to use Adobe Flash and H.264 on YouTube.

Google could at least balance out its Flash play by open sourcing VP8, a higher quality codec than Ogg. OggTheora is actually based on an earlier incarnation of the On2 codec, VP3. In 2001, On2 opened VP3 under an irrevocable free license. But that still leaves Apple and Microsoft. Apple uses H.264 with its Safari browser, arguing that Ogg is burdened by scant hardware support and an “uncertain patent landscape,” and one wonders if the “Jobs” cult would apply the same arguments to an open source VP8. Meanwhile, Microsoft just announced that the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 will lean on H.264 as well.

According to company open source guru Chris DiBona, Google has continued to use Flash on YouTube because Ogg can’t match the performance of H.264. But presumably, an open VP8 would solve this alleged performance issue. When On2 introduced VP8 in 2008, it promised “50 per cent bandwidth savings compared to H.264.”

Categories Tech Tips, Wider World
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