YouTube sticks with Flash amid HTML5 worries

Google says its YouTube video service will continue to favour Adobe’s Flash player because HTML5 is not yet capable of offering a rounded enough experience.

The move follow intense internet debate about whether the HTML5 video tag will replace Flash as the de facto video platform for the web, and although HTML5 is still a work in progress it has been gathering momentum as an open standard.

However, according to YouTube the video tools currently available in HTML5 are not rich enough for the video service to consider dumping Flash.

“We’ve been excited about the HTML5 effort and the video tag for quite a while now, and most YouTube videos can now be played via our HTML5 player,” said Google software engineer John Harding in a blog.

“This work has shown us that, while the video tag is a big step forward for open standards, the Adobe Flash Platform will continue to play a critical role in video distribution.”

Harding said current limitations in HTML5 video handling meant using that format alone would see users losing functionality, and rights holders withdrawing their support for web streaming.

“It’s important to understand what a site like YouTube needs from the browser in order to provide a good experience for viewers as well as content creators,” he said. “Simply pointing the browser at a URL is not good enough, as that doesn’t allow users to easily get to the part of the video they want.

“As we’ve been expanding into serving full-length movies and live events, it also becomes important to have fine control over buffering and dynamic quality control. 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.”

Although developers are working to improve the situation, HTML5 does not currently address streaming protocol issues and protocols like RTMPE, which offers encrypted streaming, are crucial in building trust between content owners and delivery mechanisms.

“YouTube doesn’t own the videos that you watch – they’re owned by their respective creators,” said Harding. “For YouTube Rentals, video owners require us to use secure streaming technology, such as the Flash Platform’s RTMPE protocol, to ensure their videos are not redistributed. Without content protection, we would not be able to offer [some] videos.

“While HTML5’s video support enables us to bring most of the content and features of YouTube to computers and other devices that don’t support Flash Player, it does not yet meet all of our needs. Today, Adobe Flash provides the best platform for YouTube’s video distribution requirements, which is why our primary video player is built with it.”

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