Is video so hard?

The VIDEO tag isn’t as hard to understand as media campaigning would have you believe.

A good example is at TechCrunch today: “MeFeedia Reports 63 Percent Of Web Video Is HTML5-Friendly”. Back in May 2010 the same TechCrunch writer wrote “H.264 Already Won — Makes Up 66 Percent Of Web Videos”. This in itself is pretty confusing…. 😉

The background is that an encoding site measured what codecs their clients desire, then equated the popularity of H.264 (and any VP3/VP8) with “HTML5”, which advocacy sites then equated with “iPad”.

The presence of an H.264-encoded video does not mean the site has a VIDEO tag to invoke it… retagging a site and providing a control UI does not come automatically with video compression. The numbers, as presented, mean nothing. But the headlines have already attracted further confusion, with weak headlines like “Apple Won The War Against Flash”.

My October post “Who Needs War?” still contains background on how video works, and the title was a soft allusion to those who need to posit some form of conflict to justify their position. Mike Chambers also explained how these basic technical aspects are being misrepresented.

There are so many blindspots and contradictions with this persuasion campaign. Take a look at browserrank.com, and their maps of popular browsers across the world. Firefox is the biggest “HTML5” desktop browser, yet doesn’t decode H.264 video. Opera is the biggest “HTML5” mobile browser, yet also doesn’t do VIDEO/H.264. Apple is just one small part of the total “HTML5 VIDEO” discussion. H.264 != “HTML5” != Apple.

More confusion: “The choices between Flash, H.264, Ogg, and VP8 means that if a video publisher wants full user support (and they should), they’ll need to support several formats for each video.”

Makes no sense. Adobe Flash Player has used H.264 for three-and-a-half years now, reaching +80% consumer support within six months. There is no “choice between H.264 and Flash”, just as there’s no real comparison between your groceries and their shopping cart. One contains the other. This is very simple to understand.

In the real world, to show video to everyone, you need Flash, and then something for Apple devices. Doesn’t require re-encoding the video, just re-working the site. Maybe provide something for older devices too.

And to understand the real world, do we need techblogs? The evidence they’re giving doesn’t lend confidence….

9 Responses to Is video so hard?

  1. TechCrunch has more than once been accused from irresponsible journalism. The quality of the content of TechCrunch can be seen on this story:

    http://www.technovia.co.uk/2009/02/techcrunch-irresponsible-journalism.html

    And this was the reply from last.fm :

    http://blog.last.fm/2009/02/23/techcrunch-are-full-of-shit

    Maybe TechCrunch (and BusinessInsider) deserve replies similar to the above?

  2. Aniket Ray says:

    Seriously, how hard is it for people to get that H.264 != HTML5 Video.
    H.264 played on Flash long before HTML5 took off.

    HTML5 video is just a video tag with no codec recommendation. Unfortunately with Techcrunch’s new comment system I can’t post this comment there.

  3. thomas says:

    “confusion” is reading this post. What is your point ?

  4. Evan Mullins says:

    Totally! People will believe anything.

    Flash isn’t going anywhere. I do agree that simple video without flash is cool, but by the time that is actually doable, we’ll realize the advanced features are all brought through flash.

  5. I think you got it wrong in the penultimate paragraph.

    To show video to everyone, you need H.264, and the video tag to provide a smooth experience, and then some fallback (e.g. a CPU-hogging, battery-draining, not-scrubbing-canning, keyboard-event-capturing Flash-based video player) for people who insist on supporting browser-making companies that don’t care about their users by refusing to play a video format even when the OS provides them with a decoder, the latter invalidating their idealistic argumentation about patents and so-called openness.

    Flash is good in the way that it allows you to do that without encoding all your videos twice (anyone who seriously suggests it’s a good thing to encode all your videos twice is a brainless hack, I think if we have to only ever agree on one point, this is it).

    If you make an air-lock–sealed, self-service smoking section in your restaurant for people who can’t go through a whole meal without a cigarette, it doesn’t mean you have to make your whole restaurant an air-lock–sealed, self-service smoking room. Your non-smoking customers would be pretty pissed off if you did. But air-lock–sealed smoking sections are good in the way that they allow you to serve smoking customers without opening a second restaurant in the form of a private club. (I’m not familiar with the US laws on the subject, so maybe my analogy doesn’t work for your country, but you get the idea).