Last night Google blogged about how they were experimenting with offering some videos on YouTube that support the HTML5 video tag and the H.264 codec, and that work in Chrome and Safari. This is part of TestTube, where YouTube’s engineers test out different products without rolling them into the main YouTube experience. YouTube and Flash obviously have a deep relationship. It was Flash that helped YouTube become one of the most visited sites on the Internet, and YouTube has helped increase penetration of newer versions of Flash Player by rolling out features, like H.264 support, that required the newer Flash Player versions.
There is always an undercurrent questioning if Flash is “going away” when it comes to HTML5. But I think YouTube is actually the perfect example of Flash and HTML working together. The same day Google blogged about the TestTube project, YouTube also rolled out a new rental service for some of the Sundance Film Festival videos, which is powered by Flash. And I think that shows the relationship that Flash and services like YouTube have in helping drive the web forward.
Video on the web isn’t just about watching a clip any more. There are ways to monetize it, either with advertising or by adding ways to protect content that lets people watch something after they pay. There are accessibility issues that need to be addressed like closed-captioning support. What about being able to consume video on mobile devices that don’t support the HTML5 video tag? These are all areas that Flash has found solutions to, which has helped the growth of video on the web and provided a reference for the HTML5 groups to see what works. And while there may be some arguments over the use of the H.264 codec, having Flash add support for that codec meant that companies like Google could roll out a Flash version and an HTML5 version without having to re-encode video. Flash has made possible many of the features in HTML5 by showing how good the experience can be. And Flash will continue to innovate and provide solutions to challenges on the web before those solutions can be standardized. It will remain the best way to provide cutting-edge technology to 98% of people online.
Open standards are incredibly important to the future of the web. Adobe continues to work hard to contribute to that movement and balance that with the need for our customers and developers to be able to create next-generation content that runs the same way on every operating system and device. If Flash wasn’t providing value to people, it wouldn’t be on 98% of the world’s computers and we wouldn’t see penetration for new versions reach 80% within 6 months of release.
So congrats to YouTube on the HTML5 video work. This is good for HTML and I think there will be a lot of Adobe, Flash, and HTML5 collaboration moving forward. Flash has an important role to play by providing innovative ideas and solutions for an increasingly multi-screen and multi-platform world.