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Debunking HTML5 Video Myths: A Guide for Video Publishers
HTML5 video might be getting all the attention, but video publishers who want to serve the widest possible audience should make it the format of last resort. A presentation from Streaming Media East 2011 attempts to burst HTML5 video's balloon.
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In his fast-paced Streaming Media East session, Robert Reinhardt, the creator of, debunked the myth that video publishers should target HTML5 as a platform. Rather, they should focus on reaching viewers using the most efficient and effective means possible.

Reinhardt showed that Flash has much greater penetration today than HTML5 or iOS, and likely will into the future. He then discussed features available in Flash and Silverlight that HTML5 doesn't fully offer, the most important being full-screen viewing, alpha channel overlays, webcam and microphone access, digital rights management, live streaming, and adaptive streaming.

Reinhardt concluded with his recommendation that video producers create their web page logic to try Flash first; if not available, look for an iOS player; and as a last resort, try HTML5 using H.264 and WebM.

View the video of the entire presentation below. Download Reinhardt's presentation here.

Debunking HTML5 Video Myths: A Guide for Video Publishers

Now that Google has made the decision to remove H.264 from Chrome, it's more important than ever to pick the right video formats for online video distribution. Many claims about HTML5 have been laid down by both standards and Flash proponents, and not all of them are based on fact. This session walks you through the capabilities of HTML5 and the Flash platform as well as the codecs they support, including WebM and H.264. Learn the effect HTML5 will have on video encoding and distribution in the future and how HTML5 may impact your business.

Speaker: Robert Reinhardt, Creator,

Posted By Richard Connamacher on 6/2/2011 1:34:00 AM:

I haven't had a chance to watch the full presentation, but I do have comments on the three-paragraph summary shown here, from the perspective of someone who works with both Flash and HTML5 video professionally on a nearly daily basis.

The truth is, for 99% of web video you don't actually have to choose between Flash and HTML5 video. I developed a small JavaScript library that I use on my own sites which detects what your browser supports and sends the appropriate player to you; this works because both Flash and most HTML5-only browsers support the same video codec, H.264. Video plays, smoothly, on every desktop browser, tablet, and video-capable phone I've thrown at it.

As for my comments to this article and his presentation:

Yes, Flash has a greater market penetration than iOS, but HTML5 is not synonymous with iOS. HTML5 is supported by current versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iOS, and Android phones.

Flash does supports a number of seldom-used features that HTML5 doesn't, like alpha-blended video, audio/video input, and digital rights management (used by Hulu, major studio web sites, and the like but rarely by smaller companies due to the significant extra expense involved). If you need these features, use Flash for most of your audience and figure out an alternate presentation for flash-free devices.

HTML5 absolutely supports full screen video as long as you use the browser's native video controls -- another thing he said in the talk but this summary left out. If you replace the native control bar with a custom skin, then true full screen support is rare and experimental. This is a significant concern and will change in the future, but for now there's little reason to use a custom skin anyway. Native controls look great, support full screen video, and work as expected.

As for HTML5's merits, don't forget that in most browsers it's faster, plays more smoothly, runs cooler, and uses less battery power than Flash for the same video file. When you're screening HD video on underpowered laptops or playing on a phone, the performance difference becomes significant.

Lastly, he said that Flash Player upgrades its users faster than web browsers. This is only really true with Internet Explorer where old versions stick around for years. Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and iOS Safari have all been good at getting their users to upgrade and Opera is rarely used. Chrome auto-upgrades all of its users the moment a new version comes out and Firefox now does this when a user falls too far behind. IE only supports HTML5 with the most recent release and it doesn't run on XP, so you'll need to target old IE versions with Flash for at least several more years.

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