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back to article Google: Flash stays on YouTube, and here's why

Google has confirmed that Adobe Flash will continue to "play a critical role" on YouTube, saying the fledgling HTML5 video tag doesn't meet the site's needs. "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," reads a …

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Anonymous Coward

"We need to do more than just point the browser at a video file"

I'd be quite happy if that was all that happened

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Anonymous Coward

Ah well...

Good for the rest of us that you're not one of google's software engineers then isn't it.

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Point a browser at a video file?!!???!

You know what would happen, don't you? People would *gasp* DOWNLOAD THE VIDEOS! How would you get them to come back to your site then?

OK, sarcasm aside, it would mess up their licensing model for music videos if people could download them willy-nilly.

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Troll

@The Indomitable Gall: Well, we can download 'em already

The browser naturally downloads video files, in the process of streaming the files. Some browser plugins would extend that functionality into such a form as would allow the user to "cache" the video file, indefinitely.

( IANAL, though I may know how to word some things carefully, in the climate at hand ;)

Two more cents: Even being aware of as much, I myself will still support Google's decision to retain such extensive control over the user's video-viewing experience - such as they explain is possible with Flash and evidently not possible with HTML 5.

There's a lot that, I believe, has not been brought into sufficient study or practice, in either casr, as far as the nature and relevance of human-computer interface design - but, I believe that the Google YouTube "user experience engineers" (if you will) are at least touching on it, productively.

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Bronze badge

I've been downloading like a house afire...

...thanks to http://clipnabber.com/ .

Try their bookmarklet (top right of the ClipNabber page) for downloading YouTube content. Here's a tutorial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyXnaQ4Lqsc

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Advertising

You could have saved a lot of pixels and removed every other word in the article. HTML5 Video tag offers no way to embed preroll or overlaid ads.

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What a ridiculous thing to say

Of course it does. How do you think the vast majority of ads are delivered over the web? HTML.

The <video> tag makes the video part of the DOM and not a separate plugin, so actually increases the possibilities for overlaying ads and the like.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Not quite

What the parent poster said may not be strictly accurate, but his general point is valid: pure HTML and the DOM can be easily manipulated at the client side, so if that is what your site depends on to display ads, your revenue will be at the mercy of ad-blocking plug-ins and extensions.

Flash, on the other hand, allows the interjection of ads within the content, with no easy way to block it or prevent it, without blocking the entire thing.

-dZ.

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Also...

No subtitles, No embedded comments, etc.... not only Ads guys.

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Anonymous Coward

Older browsers?

And of course, going straight to HTML5 leaves out all the computer-illiterate cute kitty fans who can't upgrade a browser if they were paid a million dollars. These are the important ones to Google because they're probably the only ones that might read the ads.

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This is a title

Another plus for HTML5!

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Version One....

Meh, version one software. Is anything ever ready to run with the big boys in it's first version? Give it time and we'll be seeing better things happen with HTML5. We need a more secure software than what we've been getting...

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HTML5/Chrome doesn't work

I've tried the YouTube HTML5 beta several times... and I keep turning it back off. Although it performs better for basic video, in Chrome you can't jump ahead in the content like you can with flash, and loading while paused doesn't seem to work (yes, I have a slow connection sometimes). If these limitations remain, it'll never fly.

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Gates Horns

Threat of litigation.

"Apple and Microsoft are both members of the H.264 patent pool, and the MPEG LA has indicated it intends to create a new patent pool that would attempt to license WebM, challenging Google's efforts to make it royalty-free."

This is surely the key sentence in the article and the real reason why youtube is still serving up Flash video. All this talk of technical hurdles associated with HTML5 is most probably just Google's way of buying time until they're satisfied with the legal landscape.

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WTF?

confused...

I cannot see how on Earth MPEG LA can even begin to think about creating a patent pool on something that doesn't belong to it...

Quite simple Google, just do it and push everybody over to using HTML5 + WebM if they want to continue viewing videos on Youtube and any page that embeds them... make it the defacto standard...

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Anonymous Coward

Shock news - Flash not rubbish after all

Flash itself has developed into a very good platform for the things it does well. Proper, grown-up streaming video and actual interactive useful objects, either embedded in webpages or stand alone using AIR. ActionScript 3 is not too shabby at doing complex simulations.

I'd have preferred that SVG had supplanted Flash, but it never got off the ground and so Flash is what we have for now.

It's just a pity it's been misused for banner ads and pointless front ends when some decent jQuery would do the job just as well and be more accessible too. Save the Flash for when it is actually useful - of course as a Flash developer of mainly educational sites it's in my interest to see it's use continue, but only where it's the best tool for the task not just for the sake of it - like any technology.

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Amidst all the emotion ...

... your use of 'grown-up' probably best illustrates why Flash is here to stay for now amdist all the comments of haters or lovers.

Yeah, it sucks for some things, but it is still the best pragmatic solution for the web until HTML 5 comes of age or some other technology leapfrogs it. For sure Flash will be replaced sometime as nothing lasts forever, but for now the economics (many more significant players than say 5 years ago to keep happy) plus the widespread reach of the internet (desktop browser versions, mobile platforms and the increased usage by previous non-geeks) will all retard dramatic and speedy changes in web technology IMHO compared to the past.

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"Flash is the only mechanism most web sites allow for embedded content from other sites."

Really? The ONLY mechanism?? Whatever happened to images? Somebody had better warn flickr!

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FAIL

That's a trickle, not a stream

Streaming video is a myth. Flash "user experience" is a bad joke.

I have yet to see a flash site that can reliably stream even standard definition video. And flash player UIs look and feel like they were designed by blind monkeys.

And the problem's not on my end - I can easily download a 500 meg hi def TV episode in 10 minutes and play it on a real media player - or stream it to a console and my TV. Or my PSP, or my phone. The only way to get a decent user experience and quality playback is to download the .flv file and play it with a decent media player.

Flash fails.

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Anonymous Coward

Eh?

"The only way to get a decent user experience and quality playback is to download the .flv file and play it with a decent media player.

Flash fails."

Eh lost me. You know FLV is Flash?

Think you mean streaming fails.

BTW plays fine on my system. Maybe you should contact your ISP.

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Anonymous Coward

@Eh?

FLV is not necessarily flash as it's a container format. The video itself may be (and usually is these days) H.264.

I see similar problems to the OP in that if I watch a video "streamed" through something like YouTube it's quite often choppy and a bit start-stop, even if I allow the video to be completely buffered first. If I download the clip and play it through VLC it's fine, which suggests a problem with the Flash plug-in rather than bandwidth or the video itself.

Oh, and the problem manifests in all of the browsers I have installed and on different machines and on different internet connections, which also eliminates those from the equation.

Mostly I see a problem for clips >5 minutes, which does suggest a buffering problem, but as the indicator shows the whole of the clip buffered that either means it's something else entirely or the indicator is showing a fake reading.

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WTF?

streaming fails...

"I have yet to see a flash site that can reliably stream even standard definition video."

"Streaming video is a myth."

you know this article is about youtube, the world's favourite video streaming site (100 million videos stream daily), using flash to deliver streaming video? It's not unreliable or a myth, silly!

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WTF?

works for me

I watched a couple of BBC programmes on iPlayer last night - not something I do often. I put them on the big (8' projection ... :) ) screen. After a couple of minutes I completely forgot that I was watching an IP stream and not a broadcast picture: the quality met or exceeded what was needed for the programme material in question.

Streaming Flash works for me: no myth here.

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iPlayer

Much though I love watching programmes on iPlayer (it's just so damn convenient), there's no way the quality is up to broadcast standards, even on my poor old SD TV. It's adequate and watchable though, which is far more than can be said for the lamentable catch-up services from the other three terrestrial channels.

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FAIL

Fail, dude. [ @ David 141]

Streaming video is a myth? Can you get http://www.nrj.fr/nrj-tv-528/nrj-webtv-535/webtv/ where you are? 768kbit/sec streaming video, worked flawlessly for hours and hours between minor hiccups on a 1 megabit line. OrangeTV (I'm with Orange) offers some lowish-bandwidth versions of most of the DTT channels plus some extras. As I'm now on 2 megabit, the quality is a little better than it was. I'll be enjoying the scenery of the Tour de France (no interest in cyclists or if that Lance bloke will win it... again...). Maybe you need to live in a place with a decent infrastructure so that streaming video works? The only time I get hiccups is either YouTube (which, let's face it, is serving millions) or Odoroku TV, though J-PopSuki [ http://fr.wwitv.com/tv/b5994.htm ] comes through just fine.

If you live in an urban area, I might point out I'm in the middle of nowhere, rural France. Hicksville. Several kilometres to town, nearly half a kilometre to neighbours, and they have four legs. >4.4km to my exchange. And with that, get 2 megabit and streaming video. So... you were saying?

Bootnote: Odoroku is Silverlight, NRJ is WinMediaPlayer, J-PopSuki and Orange's channels stream into a VLC plugin. You might have a point about Flash being lame, but Flash != streaming video.

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Buffering? Suffering, more like...

AC 1 July 2010 10:49 GMT sez:

"If I download the clip and play it through VLC it's fine, which suggests a problem with the Flash plug-in rather than bandwidth or the video itself."

That's something I've taken to doing more often, especially if it's something really interesting -- or controversial that may be yanked soon -- that I think might be worth saving. I go to the YouTube page the clip is playing at, let it run a few seconds, pause it, then use the ClipNabber bookmarklet to suck down an MPEG4 copy to my local drive, where I can watch it in smooth, non-choppy, ad-free comfort.

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WTF?

Streaming a myth? Rubbish!

Have you not heard of YouTube, Hula, Slingbox, BBC iPlayer, Sky Player? Either you're not IT literate or you're an idiot.

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Joke

"the indicator is showing a fake reading"

No, that's Apple's trick.

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blah

Adobe have already stated that they will start using webm inside flash, so whether the content comes as video tag or flash, it'll still use webm sooner or later.

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Coat

"Flash is the only mechanism most web sites allow for embedded content from other sites."

OMG! they killed OBJECT ... oh... wait. Just more marketing.

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FAIL

I see so many issues here...

"We need to do more than just point the browser at a video file like the image tag does — there’s a lot more to it than just retrieving and displaying a video."

--It worked fine 10 years ago. Just had too many video formats to choose from.

"One that not only helps address the licensing concerns, but is also optimized for the unique attributes of serving video on the web. To that end, we’re excited about the new WebM project."

"Google could surely advance the WebM cause by switching YouTube to the format entirely and moving the site to HTM5. But Harding says the company is unwilling to do so, thanks to several limitations with the <video> tag"

--So.. WebM's not actually optimized for the unique attributes of serving video on the web then?

"The HTML5 standard itself does not address video streaming protocols."

--Then, surely that's left to the implementer to add to the best of their ability.

"it doesn't allow users to easily lift video from YouTube and embed it in other sites."

--What's easier than being able to copy a URL out of raw HTML code? It's much easier than all the crap people have to go through to download video from YouTube now.

"Flash Player's ability to combine application code and resources into a secure, efficient package"

"Web site owners need to ensure that embedded content is not able to access private user information on the containing page"

--Something about running arbitrary code seems to make it more likely that the embeded content will access private user information. Not less.

"HTML5, Harding says, is limited when it comes to DRM, full-screen video, or camera and microphone access"

--Uh.. Why exactly does the video need to be able to access my camera or microphone? And surely you could add the full-screen video option to your browser's player, just like in Flash...

"it also becomes important to have fine control over buffering and dynamic quality control"

--I have yet to see a Flash video player with anything resembling that. I do remember a MS Silverlight player that had dynamic quality control though.

"Google's Chrome browser now includes a built-in Flash plug-in"

--Congratulations. Out of the box, Chrome is now as secure as a fully patched IE6. Way to go Google.

Was there anything else I missed?

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Non-issues

--So.. WebM's not actually optimized for the unique attributes of serving video on the web then?

No, WebM is absolutely fine for that, but the video tag is not. Flash provides a number of features that the video tag so far lacks, and this is an entirely separate question to the codec in use.

--Then, surely that's left to the implementer to add to the best of their ability.

That would hardly be a web standard then, would it? Flash, for all of its ideological ills, at least provides the required functionality in a (fairly) reliable cross-platform manner. Fragmentation of video tag features across different browsers would achieve the opposite. Are you sure you don't work for Microsoft?

--Uh.. Why exactly does the video need to be able to access my camera or microphone?

This, at least, is a very good question.

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@ AC

"It worked fine 10 years ago. Just had too many video formats to choose from."

Possibly one of the reasons there should be a unified browser playback protocol that picks a suitable codec from the OS pool. Not exactly a plugin, more a load-codec-and-stream-data-to-it.

"So.. WebM's not actually optimized for the unique attributes of serving video on the web then?"

I suspect it may be okay for serving video, it's the extra crap that it might suck at. How did the HTML5 test work with annotations and captions.

"Then, surely that's left to the implementer to add to the best of their ability."

Would this not, then, lead to fragmentation?

"It's much easier than all the crap people have to go through to download video from YouTube now."

What crap? I have DownloadHelper to snarf a copy of what I'm actually looking at, or www.youtubedownloaderhd.com for picking the 'quality' myself, or grabbing without actually watching first. Just copy/paste the URL. Hardly "all the crap"...

"Something about running arbitrary code seems to make it more likely that the embeded content will access private user information. Not less."

Well, we all know somebody will try it...

"Uh.. Why exactly does the video need to be able to access my camera or microphone?"

You do realise YouTube isn't intended for being a global jukebox? It is for a bunch of people to splatter their thoughts and opinions to the world. I can easily see YouTube loving having a webcam upload directly to their servers. No messing with recording, editing, file formats, codecs... just clicky-speaky.

"And surely you could add the full-screen video option to your browser's player, just like in Flash..."

And pray that it scales the video CORRECTLY in a 16:9 aspect display. Flash does, for what it is worth...

"I do remember a MS Silverlight player that had dynamic quality control though."

Does this not imply on-the-fly encoding to match bitrate to what is available?

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Trouble downloading from YouTube?

AC 1 July 2010 03:17GMT sez:

"--What's easier than being able to copy a URL out of raw HTML code? It's much easier than all the crap people have to go through to download video from YouTube now."

As I mentioned a little ways up the scroll, the ClipNabber bookmarklet works like a champ for me.

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Dead Vulture

a

HTML5 you say? Is that Web3.0 then?

I remember the good old days of Web1.0 (we called it the Information Super Highway back then you know). black text, white backgrounds, blue links and if you were fancy - embedded pictures! Sometimes even moving gifs! Those were the days :)

(Grave cause how much the web has changed makes me feel old)

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Stop

Title Required

I wish people would remember HTML 5 is more than a video tag!

Though slightly OT, HTML5 is going to become the biggest mess in web history with the different organisations rushing to implement HTML5 features in their browsers before the specification is complete. Oh yeah, I can hardly wait for it now..

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agreee

Nice article.... what we should remember is how flash overrulled MS media plugin ... when all videos have been using MS media plugin or realplayer.... both tried to be too smart.. cached video as it wanted playing with uncontrolled pausing... or even worse some videos didnt start playing before it got it all... and here came flash which made it easy.... play instantly if you pause it it will cache it and u see how far it was downloaded.... simple fast and in less than 6-7 month it took over of most video content on internet.... devil is in details... dont play too wise with new videotag of html 5 pls

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Yep

People should be careful what they wish for - video playback is going to end up a right mess if Flash dies.

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FAIL

flash need to sort out growing pains

Although so long on the market, this "plug-in" doesn't forward key events to the browser, preventing navigation by keys. for me that is a big big no go and the reason flash is not on on my private computer. on my work computer too, but can't do that on the customer laptops I'm using :(.

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Stop

Someone want to tell Google and el-reg

that HTML5 spec is not finished OR ratified yet.....

Clearly pulling flash from youtube this year, next year or anytime soon would be idiotic, but things are clearly changing and a move towards a standard HTML that does video has a clear path (WebM/HTML5).

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"there’s a lot more to it than just retrieving and displaying a video."

Like what?

Like planting spyware and user tracking, I suspect.

Things that google etc probably should *NOT* ever have been legally allowed to do in the first place, if we had any *genuine* user-benefitting data protection laws and enforced them.

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Flash

Actually it's just about Ads, youtube doesn't use any DRM-scheme and doesn't use RTMP for streaming, it's normal HTTP MP4 with streaming / sequential download support just as HTML 5 / QT / WMP-IE / Chrome-ffmpeg. Granted the flash player / player app has more streaming and buffering features but most of those aren't used by google and DRM just isn't a argument for a site which hosts on-demand videos on HTTP.

You actually don't need HTML5 to play back the videos encoded by Youtube/Google at all, QT and HTML4/XHTML works fine for that. Blip.tv already does it like that with mov's. Not that QT on Windows is much better then the awfully engineered flash player. And the Safari HTML5 demo weren't actually a true HTML5 demo at all as it was mostly just a bunch of CSS3 and javascript tied in with Safari. Why didn't they just use the audio-tag, etc? Oh wait webkit didn't support that. The video-tag demo could have been made to support IE9 beta and chrome though. But too bad they didn't go for a more standard approach.

Flash will be around because of it's flawed DRM-scheme which is cracked any way, ability to integrate ads and easily overlay stuff and so on, even though some of the solutions doesn't really work on any computer :) And the ability to play WebM will be used in IE for playing back at sites that only supports that. Creating a flash player app to play videos is free, all the codecs are in the Flash Player plugin and you don't even need to buy Adobe flash pro to compile it, requiring not a single cent to Adobe :) RTMP streaming is kinda dead outside the DRM or CDN services which uses it.

And I do argue and agree that the Chrome ffmpeg implementation is awful lacking full screen, good overlay and hw-acceleration. Safari, QT / Mac is good in that regard though, with no problem with full screen playing and plays back most youtube videos - those without encoding errors. But of course QT wouldn't handle flv encapsulated stuff. They should just scrap the Chrome implementation and buy in a commercial codec really ffmpeg can be tweaked to work good but you shouldn't really encourage third parties building ffmpeg stuff when they aren't licensed too. Neither is it really up to date.

@Anonymous Coward, you can hide the url the same way youtube does it for the flash player. They don't use any DRM, it's just a JS scheme and should be considered clear text. Obfuscation isn't DRM. Obfuscation works for HTML5 or even 4 for that matter.

Any way Flash will be the only way to play AVC/H.264 MP4s or WebM/MKV videos in XP with a Microsoft browser as MS won't release it for XP SP3 as they are engineering it only for Direct2D which doesn't exist for XP. So it shouldn't and won't disappear. But besides you have to do ads differently theres no reason why not to do browser integrated player / HTML5 playback support on sites that use HTTP streaming and encodes videos to standard MP4 containers and QT/commercial codec compatible encodes -- or WebM. However sites like Hulu etc needs the broken Adobe DRM and RTMP streaming, otherwise they are not allowed to stream the videos and that's actually partly the music biz fault as they have more say about how to use their works then the movie industry has about their own where there is no copyright royalty collecting societies. Licensing a movie for download rather then streaming is something wholly different because of that. And if you license for streaming you must have a technical protection mechanism to unsuccessfully but illegal to circumvent the copying or downloading or unauthorized view of the material. In short they don't allow the use of unprotected streaming in the form of QT encoded content on HTTP streaming, HTML5 WebM or the flash model Youtube uses.

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Jobs Halo

codec

the reason Apple backs h264 is because it can be decoded in hardware on small devices, like the iPhone. Maybe to piss off Google, too, but I'd say it's primarily because of the decoders.

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HTML 5

HTML 5 is shit, there, I said it.

Whilst it DOES have some plus-points like being able to semantically mark up navigation (<nav>) or the <datalist> element to specify valid text input client-side, it's got a few downsides that nobody seems to notice - stuff that seems to be there just to ensure that people who write crappy markup can continue to do so.

For instance they've bundled MSs <embed> into the standard now, but got shot of <applet>. Realistically there should be either <object> as a generic wrapper that replaces <embed>, <applet> and even the new <canvas> or there should be all those specific elements. There's nothing really wrong with <canvas> but why not extend <object> rather than introduce another tag? The same could also be said for <audio> and <video> and even <img> - they could all be <object> - or <embed> if that was chosen as the tag rather than <object>.

... and who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to continue to support tags that are NOT XML well-formed? Maybe it's just me, but I find it much easier to have to close every tag rather than remember which ones need to be closed and which don't and while I can continue to do that in HTML 5 supporting non-XML type tags just adds bloat to the browser for interpreting it.

XHTML 2 was, in some ways, a better considered spec which stripped out a lot of the bloat from HTML (whereas HTML 5 adds to it) - though I was never quite convinced by it having to mung in XForms.

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Bronze badge

Tags

As far as I'm concerned, this business about non-XML tags is silly. Of course every browser must support sites written to support the first browsers ever made. New features can be added in an upwards-compatible manner; there is no excuse for fragmenting the web or requiring perfectly good web sites to be updated to display on newer browsers.

Of course, though, TeX should be extended to allow hyperlinks and images, so that people could navigate to .tex pages in addition to .htm pages, since there are things that HTML doesn't do well, or is excessively verbose in doing.

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Boffin

Jobs buckling under?

From his High-Handedness I do not expect any backing down, but is a Good Thing he fueled this debate (even if only to keep his App Store bottom line).

HTML5, while promising, isn't there yet. And Flash is way too prevalent to just ignore.

I wish iPad had flash, then I'd buy it. Without Flash it is not good enough as a browsing appliance, however sleek it is.

As for youtube - well. Standalone Youtube players are well and good, but the embedding is too useful.

Remember - Youtube may be the biggest online video site, but hardly the only one. Almost all other video sites use flash video. For a small outfit FLV/F4V is very easy to author, having phletora of tools and support.

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Stop

Unwillingness

"Google could surely advance the WebM cause by switching YouTube to the format entirely and moving the site to HTM5. But Harding says the company is unwilling to do so, thanks to several limitations with the <video> tag."

Perhaps because that would piss off a lot of users? There's nothing wrong with progressing to HTML5, but dumping what it already has is change for the sake of change and will annoy users. You do know YouTube still supports the H.263 format (some videos are tagged 240p, I think that is it, but &fmt=5 will get it too). This may be of use to some of the embedded devices which have YouTube functionality and can cope with H.263 but lack the processing oomph necessary for H.264. Oh, and saying "update your hardware" is not a viable option. Some people can't afford it, and some people are happy with what they have. To throw a stone at that "for the sake of change", especially to a protocol so ill-defined that there's no *universal* video format at this time and nothing to say more couldn't be added (will sites that support streaming DivX still need a plugin... in a browser that claims built-in video support?!?), it will only cause more problems that in solves.

Sure, ride the cutting edge. Update to the latest-greatest, watch your HTML5ised H.264 videos all you want. But don't cock it up for the rest of us.

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Alert

So, it's about more than HTML5

It looks like HTML5 might not ultimately be so much a "winner" - at least not as much as the most naive of us may have hoped - as far as online video content presentation. If the features provided with <strike>Macromedia</strike> Adobe Flash are that much more valuable to the massive online video content provider that is YouTube, I wonder how many other service providers would finally switch over to HTML 5?

Maybe HTML 5 had better "catch up", or maybe people will simply stop representing the discussion *as*if* HTML 5 was even a full alternative to ... Adobe ... Flash.

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Silver badge

@confused.

>creating a patent pool on something that doesn't belong to it...

That's the difference between patents and copyright.

I can have a patent simply on the idea of using a computer to view a video of a kitten, and you are violating it even if I did no work to code your system and you didn't benefit from my 'invention'

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