back to article HTML5 unfit for web TV, says Hulu

Web-TV-streaming giant Hulu claims that HTML5 isn't ready for coding and broadcasting video on the web. The service - America's answer to the BBC's iPlayer - released the latest version of its player built using Adobe Systems' ActionScript, saying that HTML5 is not ready for prime time. Product video president Eugene Wei …


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  1. Goatan

    Like iplayer??

    Its like iplayer in a way but has more shows I wanna watch and can't cos I live in the uk


    1. The BigYin

      Cheap VPN?

      The internet is global. A barrier is just something to be routed around and ignored.

      When will these idiots realise that?

  2. Bob H


    I've been working on this subject for quite some time and they almost had my sympathy.

    But then I used my brain, I ignored the codex debate red-herring to start with. An https connection and h.264 encoding are commercial grade enough for streaming.

    Reporting? A quick look at the html5 spec shows the ping attribute to be useful enough for this.

    Their biggest problem is that there aren't enough users with compliant browsers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      This is ...

      One of the best comments ever on el reg - you are completely correct.

      1. Al Jones

        No "Save As" on Hulu

        As far as I can tell, the HTML5 Video tag doesn't provide a mechanism to prevent the user saving the video to their hard drive. I'm pretty sure that Hulu aren't going to switch to a native HTML5 interface as long as that's the case.

        Flash may be a crap video player from the "consumers" point of view, but Hulu probably wouldn't have any content to display if the "content providers" thought that the end users could just grab the videos and store them locally.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Al Jones

          Isn't that what torrents are for? Why would they need to save to their hard drives when they can just download it today for free (and without commercial interruption)?

        2. Leo Rampen

          Security through obscurity

          It's worth noting that Flash's only "DRM" available is an encrypted video stream. Someone made a program to rip video from flash player, and adobe sued them. Flash video has no inherant DRM or real security beyond HTTPS and lawsuits.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          There have been 3rd party Hulu players out there

          There have been 3rd party Hulu players out there -- boxee is one, although they have been fighting a cat-n-mouse game -- so not convinced there is anything in form of encryption or security on the feeds -- probably just a simple authentication autorization session.

    2. austin cheney
      Thumb Down

      You forgot to mention security

      The sole of their argument seemed to revolve around security, which you completely seemed to ignore.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not sure I agree with that -- there are deeper reasons

      Maybe the should make the dynamic, so that people with certain browsers which they had validated would get the HTML5 version where the rest would get the flash version -- given that playing Video is their only business they need to put that effort into it.

      Also, It would give them a grate testing ground -- but on the other side if you are lazy and strapped for initiative/cash then maybe just advocate for "no change needed".

      On the other hand one of the biggest problems is that Hulu have begun to ship a desktop client (i.e. not browser based) which is also using Flash -- just so that they can combat the set of stand alone Multi media Browsers such as Boxee and the like -- that means that they will have to find a second solution for that as well -- so the compexity is probably the reason for what looks like a knee-jerk statement.

  3. RJ


    HTML is supposed to allow for an embedded video without require plugins.

    Hulu requires a hell of a lot more than just video playback so HTML5 doesn't work for them.

    I don't see the problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the problem is....

      The problem is that it exposes Jobs' lies. As we all know, the flash debacle comes from the fact that flash can serve apps and video while circumventing the app store. HTML5 is nowhere near primetime, which is why Jobs can safely refer to it as the preferred option, because he knows he won't have to deal with it as a revenue leak anytime soon.

      Mark my words - the instant HTML5 matures, he'll find a new reason not to implement that. All content must come through the app store so Steve gets a cut.

      If I were the Adobe CEO I'd grow some nuts and cut all support for Apple platforms. Let's see how long the Mac lasts with no Photoshop, Indesign, Fireworks, After Effects etc.

      I hate the fact that Adobe sponsor Fox News, but they're definitely the bigger man in this propaganda war.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        So what you're saying is

        Jobs and Apple are the Evil Empire and Adobe are the Altruistic Proletariat?

        Not sure that's quite right, maybe you should steer clear of Fox News.

        If you were the Adobe CEO I could see them going bust inside a year.

        Cut all support for Apple platforms because of some stupid playground spat? Are you three? Do you think your paying customers on the Apple platform would be content to let you do that?

        Don't forget that MS and Opera have jumped on the "Flash is rubbish" bandwagon too, maybe you would also like to cut support for all the Adobe products on those platforms too.

        What do you have left to sell? The company, if you're quick.

        Wait a minute....I've just had an idea for some t-shirts. I could make money out of this.

      2. richard 69

        no html 5 on macs?

        you really think that jobs will block html 5 on macs? really?

        i actually use apps much more now than a browser, and really some sort of app/widget is the future for the web, not a browser.

        apple make most of their money from hardware, the app store is a piss in the ocean.

        1. Steven Knox

          @AC: So what you're saying is...

          that there are only angels and demons in this world?

          Oversimplifying someone's argument and then attacking that oversimplification is the very definition of a straw man fallacy.

          I think what the o.p. was saying was that Apple and Jobs are oversimplifying the debate over Flash, and that Hulu's position on this speaks to that. Adobe may well be (read: is) oversimplifying their side of the debate as well, but this particular instance serves best to illustrate Apple's hypocrisy.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        RE: the problem is....

        "As we all know, the flash debacle comes from the fact that flash can serve apps and video while circumventing the app store."

        Except since we've presumably all been reading El Reg over the last few weeks and months, we all know that isn't the reason at all.

        Adobe can't be trusted to write stable software. I have first hand experience of how rotten Flash is on OSX. In addition, Apple doesn't want anyone interacting with the APIs in ways that are not described in the official documentation. This is probably because they don't want a similar situation to the Workbench 1.3 -> 2.0 debacle that Commodore had.

        So buggy software, possibly interacting with the OS in ways it shouldn't be = bad.

        btw. If I want to watch video on my iPhone, I can use YouTube or something - the store doesn't have to come into it in any way...

    2. Random_Walk

      Define "a hell of a lot more"

      So far, the only things I can decrypt from the Hulu rep market-speak is that they want DRM and end-user tracking (read: LSOs).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "That’s not to say these features won’t be added to HTML5 in the futur

    (or be easier to implement). Technology is a fast-moving space and we’re constantly evaluating which tools will best allow us to fulfill our mission for as many of our customers as possible."

    Yep, that's the next paragraph of Wei's piece, which paints more of a measured, suck-it-and-see approach than the "fuck HTML 5, Flash rocks!" tone implied by the article.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Quote: "Interestingly, the HTML5 version of YouTube uses the patented H.264 codec, rather than the open-source codec Ogg Theora"

    I fail to see what is even remotely "interesting" about this. Given that YouTube were already encoding everything in H.264 format (for playback within their Flash wrapper) long before they even thought about switching to HTML5, there is nothing interesting about them sticking with H.264 for their HTML5 based player given that it requires no additional re-encoding effort on their part.

    Unsurprising. Unremarkable. Highly predictable. That is what it is.

    It is perhaps "interesting" that they decided not to bother re-encoding everything *again* to offer it in Ogg Theora format once they knew they were going to beta test their HTML5 player, but that is also hardly surprising given the costs and drawbacks the format entails cf. H.264.

  6. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Sounds more like Hulu unfit for web

    All they seem to ask for, bar DRM are easy to implement. DRM is in reality impossible so why bother?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      RE: Sounds more like Hulu unfit for web

      The BBC think they've managed to lock down their iPlayer content. They claimed that was why they were dropping support for third-party Flash players (ie not Adobe's). I didn't know third-party versions even existed!

      Various apps are available on the web to get around this... I've not tried them of course but they claim to be able to download video from iPlayer and save it to your computer...

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    The man from Hulu is wrong

    It must also secure the content - https and a certificate

    Handle reporting for our advertisers - JavaScript

    Render the video using a high performance codec to ensure premium visual quality - Depends what codec they throw in with the rendering engine. HTML5 doesn't specify Ogg or H.264.

    Communicate back with the server to determine how long to buffer and what bitrate to stream - The video tag renderer

    And dozens of other things that aren't necessarily visible to the end user - sort of like programming in general then.

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Wrong type of secure

      "It must also secure the content - https and a certificate"

      No they are control freaks (Hulu and the content providers) they are talking about securing the customers... DRM, and Flash has DRM and the are adding more DRM to the next version to keep the control freaks happy.

    2. James Butler

      Ideas not fully-formed

      "Handle reporting for our advertisers - JavaScript"

      Not reliable in any form of the word. Not only does the client have control over whether Javascript is enabled, but Javascript implementations across browsers are buggy and unpredictable in many circumstances, relying, as it does, on the good graces of the machine it finds itself on.

      Javascript, like parsing the User-agent string, should never be relied on for anything important.

      "Depends what codec they throw in with the rendering engine. HTML5 doesn't specify Ogg or H.264."

      Hulu will continue to use H.264 for their encoding, regardless of whether HTML5 or Flash takes precedence because of the costs associated with switching to another codec. Besides, they don't have any control over the rendering engine ... that's up to the the web browser. If the client's browser supports H.264, then that is what it will use, both in Hulu's and YouTube's cases. Unfortunately, MSIE does not support Ogg, so for quite some time we will not be seeing any major rollout of exclusively Ogg-encoded streams.

      Much of Hulu's argument falls flat. The real reasons are cost ... to convert from H.264 to something else ... and reach ... until MSIE supports HTML5 consistently, there's no reason for any major company to change their approach.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what they really mean is...

    is doesn't have DRM... imagine BBC iPlayer with no DRM... that would be nice. It was actually be like an old-school video recorder.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Old School VHS

      Well iplayer is as bad as self-taped VHS in quality, so they are halfway there.

      I'll take a DVR over the iplayer any day. Granted the picture quality of Freeview/Freesat/Sky/Virgin isn't great, but it's miles better than iplayer or _any_ internet based solution for that matter.

      1. Neil Stansbury


        Are you a complete cheese head?

        Take both your fingers out of your nose and stop and think for more than one breath.

        Have you ever bothered to actually use iPlayer?

        It can stream full HD upto 1280x720 encoded with H.264.

        If you bothered to engage brain before mouth, you'd also know there is an entire gamut of format definitions available via iPlayer:

        flashhd1, flashhd2, flashhigh, flashlow1, flashlow2, flashnormal, flashvhigh2, iphone, n95_wifi

        --modes switch for get_iplayer users.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Resolution !== Quality

          You're confusing picture quality with resolution. I won't bore you with facts about bitrates, H.264 encoding profiles and the rest, you can research that for yourself. Suffice it to say, iplayer picture quality is no match for broadcast (BBC channels). It might not matter to you, but the difference is very clear.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      RE: So what they really mean is...

      "is doesn't have DRM... imagine BBC iPlayer with no DRM..."

      There's at least one app that lets you download their content anyway.

      "iPlayer Grabber" is one - don't know if it works, I haven't tried it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    re: Old School VHS

    > but it's miles better than iplayer or _any_ internet based solution for that matter.

    Doesn't beat downloading 720p MKV files

  10. Anonymous Coward

    RE: huh?

    "But then I used my brain, I ignored the codex debate red-herring to start with. An https connection and h.264 encoding are commercial grade enough for streaming."

    No they ain't. They're good enough for streaming to closed platforms where there's little capacity for creating a compromised client (like the iPad, ironically), but not for a general purpose computing platform where you can't tell if the application is an authentic client or if there's interception (which SWF verification and RTMPE provide in theory for Flash).

    Obviously neither SWF Verification nor RTMPE are very good, but they're significantly better than nothing, unquestionably more legally risky to engineer around in the US or UK, and the sort of thing that a corporate insurer will accept as there's a third party with significant assets to persue if something went badly, badly wrong - whereas they get much more jittery about an HTTPS hack that someone in R&D has cobbled together.

    HTML5 is not ready for grown up professional video serving. Not by a long way.

  11. Sonny Jim

    Quit stealing my dynamic range!

    "A volume normalization feature will keep the volume consistent between programs and ads."

    I've actually started listening to Classical music not because I like it that much, but just so I can start appreciating the different volume levels and swells in the music. It's unbelievable how much audio compression is around these days, seems like audio geeks are losing the Loudness war:

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Another reason to avoid f-in hulu. lol Flash will die one day, it has to.

  13. Ben 42


    Oh, you mean the guys who broke their player on 64-bit Flash in Linux months ago and still haven't been able to fix it? And, judging from the posts on their message board, have also broken XP users with this latest "upgrade". Pardon me if I view their opinions on video players with some skepticism.

    It's a shame too, because they're so painfully close to that mythical video on demand service that we've been promised for at least a decade. Unfortunately the implementation falls flat a lot of the time, and while some of that can be blamed on the content providers requiring stupid restrictions, some of the blame goes to Hulu too. I would love to pay for a commercial-free Hulu (if they were to offer such a thing), but at this point I won't even consider it thanks to the unresolved issues.

  14. Matthew 4
    Thumb Up


    anything that pisses off apple users can't be bad.

  15. Grubby
    Thumb Up

    The same... but different

    There's a lot more content on Hulu, but it all seems to be in a really rubbish format and looks like it was recorded on binladens camcorder.

    The Iplayer on the other hand is very smooth looking, although the content is... well, it's BBC innit...

    So need an iplayer ith hulu content, in the UK... Skyplayer :)

  16. jon 77

    @Sonny Jim: wrong section...

    most TVs you can switch it off, so you can listen to your music....

    I would leave it on while I am watching a quiet movie, Hopefully it would stop loud adverts destroying the mood!! - particularly late at night....

  17. jon 77

    admen will use HTML5!!

    --- if it ever gets popular.... But I dont see how, HTML5 is just for video, as FLV flash video is (have to load large source, no interactivity, just play, stop, etc...)

    Admen use SWF, much smaller, easier, intractive, etc... I dont see any of that stopping...

  18. ZChris
    Paris Hilton


    Umm... Isn't it the weekend?

    Shouldn't you kids be out playing or something??

    (Paris, because No wonder today's kids are all fat & sick)

  19. Jeff F.
    Gates Horns

    Do not adjust your set

    We will control your experience with no further interaction or adjustment on your part. You must use Internet explorer v 11 to fully enjoy this experience.

    you must upgrade to the latest windows media player...

    I'm sorry you appear to be using a non-supported browser ...

    All this bull just to "serve" ads non-stop! I hate it. Fight the Power!

  20. Defiant


    HTML5 video is great on Youtube

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Until the DRM gets sorted they mean

    Hollywood - reducing YOUR choice and making YOU pay more !

  22. Jim Carter

    Ah bollocks to Hulu

    Moan, whinge, moan. Can't see what they're on about.

  23. Juan Inamillion


    "Are you a complete cheese head?"

    Made me laugh out loud...

    That is all.

  24. JMD

    Build it...


    To the HTML5 masses: Build it. That's right! it's easy to piss on Adobe and Flash and be all mad because hulu thinks HTML5 is teh suck. Prove them wrong. Build a content delivery platform that will tick all these boxes and deploy to the same user base as Flash, of course.

    That's right dust up your IDE of choice (Notepad FTW) and go for it! We'll wait...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Content security

    Uh huh. Use HTML5 to enforce region locking. Bunch of \b\tards.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Maybe Mr Hulu should lear JavaScript.

    That Hulu is comparing Flash to just the Video component of the HTML5 -- maybe the reporting, the security and bitrate detection should be written in JavaScript -- I believe that is the altanatinve to Flash -- the Multimedia component + javascript for control language.

  27. JMD

    "HTML5 is not ready for prime time"

    They are not saying it's not possible, just that it's not a viable option for their service right now. I am sure in time that will change and they are probably building an HTML5 based player as we speak. Maybe some of you non-contributing zeros can help them do so, rather than troll around and bitch all day :)

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