YouTube Software Engineer Weighs in on Flash and HTML5

Jun 30, 2010

Balancing the need for an open web and user needs.


John Harding, Software Engineer for YouTube, threw has hat into the Flash/HTML5 debate giving a point-by-point breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of the free and open <video> tag provided within HTML5. His conclusion: HTML5 is the way of the future, but the format has a ways to go before it can be fully adopted by YouTube.


Harding's first issue with HTML5 video is the lack of a standard format. YouTube uses h.264, but the licensing issues have limited browser support. This led Google to create the WebM project, which uses the recently opened VP8 codec as a new open standard, but the codec is in its infancy, in need of more support and additional improvements and optimizations before it can become viable.


Harding's second issue with HTML5 is the lack of fine control over buffering and self-adjusting video quality based on connection speed. HTML5 doesn't address streaming protocols, yet.


"Flash Player addresses these needs by letting applications manage the downloading and playback of video via Actionscript in conjunction with either HTTP or the RTMP video streaming protocol," Harding said.


Furthermore, HTML5 doesn't offer content protection, something that Flash offers through the RTMPE protocol. And Flash packages and embeds content securely, something HTML5 has yet to fully accomplish and therefore limits it from being embedded on other sites.


Harding's final two issues are relatively small. HTML5 doesn't support fullscreen mode and is just beginning to offer camera and microphone access. He ends his post by championing HTML5's cross-platform compatibility and championed Flash as the best platform for YouTube's video distribution requirements.

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