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Video.js Is Updated, Developers Write Once for HTML5 and Flash

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Video.js, the open source HTML5 and Flash video player created by Steve Heffernan, cofounder of cloud-encoder Zencoder, has just been updated to version 3.0. The result promises to make life easier for developers by letting them write in HTML5, but get results in both HTML5 and Flash.

Heffernan approached this version of Video.js with the understanding that Flash isn't dead and isn't going anywhere soon.

"I think there's always going to be a place for Flash. The benefit of Adobe is they can innovate really quickly," says Heffernan.

Knowing that Flash support is essential and that HTML5 is years away from feature parity (something that may never happen), he completely rewrote the platform and included a lightweight (10k versus 100 to 200k) Flash player as a fallback.

"Flash isn't dead, it's just being refocused," Heffernan adds.

For version 3.0, Heffernan created a common API and skin for both HTML5 and Flash. The result is that developers can write in HTML5 and see results in both HTML5 and the Flash playback. With this version, developers can use HTML5 and CSS to design their players, rather than having to learn Flash or a proprietary skinning language. Because of its ease, he expects Video.js to take off with designers.

For HTML5 downsides, like the inability to offer fullscreen video, Heffernan uses a feature of new browsers that lets any element go fullscreen. For older browsers that lack that feature, the player will use full window mode.

"We build in features that aren't yet available in HTML5," says Heffernan, describing his player as an HTML5 shiv.

As always, Video.js is open source and is a free download. The player is a project of Zencoder, and Heffernan says the encoding site generates a lot of traffic by offering the player.

With this version, Zencoder is offering a free hosted version of the player -- sponsored by Level 3, Zencoder's CDN -- so that content owners don't need to download the software. Instead, they can plug the needed code into their page and the player will work automatically. 

Heffernan spent four months putting this version together, with most of that time spent integrating technology and building common APIs for HTML5 and Flash.

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