back to article HTML5 web video flashes past Flash

HTML5 now commands a majority of web-based video support, but its rise is being fueled by mobile devices. Adobe Flash still holds the lead in desktop content. This news comes from a new survey of HTML5-video penetration conducted by MeFeedia, the self-described "largest independent video site on the web with partnerships so …


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  1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Please stop the false dichotomy

    We know it. Flash made universal web video possible and it is that very universability which has led to the <video> tag. Oh, but the content owners and the browser manufacturers can't agree on the codecs so Flash *remains* the best way to deliver. The mobile devices thing is a bit of a red herring as you often can't tell whether you're on a web page or in an native app - this, after all, is pretty much the USP of the "app" approach which emphasises specialisation over generalisation. Frustration sets in when you get the "I'm sorry but this content is not available for your device" which is something no content owner wants their customers to see.

    If Adobe can continue to provide tools for designers and developers to work with, and let's face it hand-coding a stage or a timeline isn't much fun, and can generate suitable code, whether it is Flash or "native code" for the target platform, then they will continue to do well.

  2. Will 28

    Probably not the majority in the election sense

    A lot of sites use both. What was the figure for Flash? I suspect it's more than 54%.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Where is it all?

      Where is this HTML5 stuff. I watch quite a bit of video streaming content each day, but have yet to come across any HTML5 stuff. In second place to flash for me is DIVX streaming....

      1. ThomH

        Sites that will vend in HTML5 H.264 video to mobile devices

        At least: YouTube, DailyMotion, BBC iPlayer. Definite absentees: 4OD, BBC News.

        That's just from personal experience.

  3. Ned Ludd

    I don't get it...

    I'll admit I know bugger-all about the subject, but surely HTML5 can also be used to present flash-based video??? Isn't the issue more H.264 vs Flash?

    Enlighten me!

    1. leftfield


      The whole point of the HTML5 video tag is to be able to offer video without requiring a plug-in to display it. Most Flash video is actually encoded in H.264 and wrapped in a Flash container (which you need a flash plugin to play).

      The HTML5 video tag can present video in any video format (not Flash and obviously the browser has to support the codec), the main contenders are H.264, Ogg Theora and Google WebM.

      So the war is Flash vs HTML5, there just also happens to be a sub war happening with a number of companies trying to push different codecs as the HTML5 standard according to what suits their corporate agenda.

    2. Smokey Joe


      Ask Mr Jobs. He thought he had the answer to this one...

      1. JEDIDIAH

        meh I say!

        There has NEVER been the need for a special tag to play video in a browser. You simply need to be willing to present the content as a simple hyperlink. Even the 1.1N version of Netscape could handle managing the mime types for video and calling an appropriate external application.

        Flash is all about keeping things away from the user. Having a simple "video tag" addresses none of the real requirements here.

        That said, I still have not forgotten about all of the Sorenson codec nonsense with Apple and QuickTime.

        1. Ray Simard

          @meh I say!

          Part of the motivation for the <video> tag is to work in the same fashion as, for example, the <img> tag for still images: the browser renders the video natively and needs no external application. The responsibility for making it work right, for security and so on now rests with the browser's makers instead of an application's makers (or several applications' makers). And cross-platform compatibility would fall into line with all the other natural browser functions: video would look the same in Linux as it does in Windoze, same as images do now.

          Were it not for the codec conundrum this would be hard to criticize. That is the sticking point, and really, the only one.

          Tux, who knows H.264 must be removed from the equation.

    3. Ray Simard

      @I don't get it

      HTML5 can do anything HTML4 can, including the markup for Flash. What this article refers to is the native <video> tag in HTML5 which is intended to create a single, standard markup for video. While embedding video for a particular player means unique markup for that player, not to mention complications such as, for Flash, the need for different tags for IE and Mozilla (<embed> and <object> ; I forget which goes with which), the native <video> tag is much simpler, universal and unambiguous.

      The codec dispute is over what codec the content specified in a <video> tag should use. Originally the choice was the open-source Theora, which is believed to have no patent issues. Apple raised holy hell about it and managed to strong-arm the W3C into removing the codec specification entirely, leaving the choice of codec to the coders of each video; thus, some videos will play on some systems and not others, depending on which codecs are installed on that particular computer.

      H.264 is considered the best performer (by a fairly slim margin), but is full of patent encumbrances (which enrich Apple and Microsoft--surprise!). That is very properly unacceptable to open-source Mozilla, which stands by the core principle of the Internet's design that says making use of Internet-standard protocols will be free and open; there will be no associated costs, directly, or as in this case, indirectly.

      Any time you view a video using the <video> tag that is encoded with H.264, you are using a proprietary codec. To have that codec on your system you have to have installed a player that includes it, and they are not free, as you'd expect in the case of anything that uses patented technology. (And I'm pretty sure there's no way to get one for Linux, at least a legit one.) Also, In any case, if it's proprietary, it can be charged for, if not now, then someday, and if you have to have it to watch video that does not involve a third-party app (like Flash or Silverlight), you are paying to use <video>, an Internet standard. and that's just plain wrong.

    4. Mike G
      Jobs Horns


      The article is a load of Jobsian cool aid glugged down and excreted from the other end through a tool no doubt quivering with excitement at the thought of snuggling up close to the cult hype.

      Read the AC post further down for a correct analysis of why it's not a case of flash OR h.264 (flash and h.264 work together quite happily, and in fact flash can playback the superior and far more bandwidth efficient h.264 profiles such as main and high as well as a other codecs)

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Rik, I'm sure you were a brilliant guy before you fell in with the cult at Cupertino.

    Rik, I'm sure you were a brilliant guy before you fell in with the cult at Cupertino.

    Now you don't even understand the articles you're reporting on.

    "HTML5 now commands a majority of web-based video support". Sorry, Rik, no.

    The piece at Meefedia says "54% of web video is now available for playback in HTML5" - but it's not "either/or". Of course it is *also* available for playback in Flash.

    The dominant player is web video is obiovusly youtube. They are currently doing an opt-in trial of HTML 5.0 only:

    So all youtube videos would count as being "available for playback in HTML5" but they are also available in flash -- and would be far more often played in flash.

    Fruthermore, the vast majority of videos are still played within desktop environments, and "Flash remains the dominant player within desktop environments" so again, we can assume the vast majoirty of web videos are played back in Flash. Even if they are available in HTML 5.0

    Therefore we can certainly conclude, Rik, that "HTML5 does *not* "command a majority of web-based video support".

    Please, El Reg: can't you deprogramme Rik like they used to do with Moonies? I'm sure he used to be a bright guy with a mind of his own before he fell in with the Cupertino cult. So sad.

    1. Lutin


      Thanks. Was a bit confused by this story and how the hell html5 video could have overtaken flash so quickly, but then read your explanation and realised the story was, in fact, nonsense.

    2. Prag Fest
      Jobs Halo


      Give it up, it's over, Apple has won. Jobs was right about HTML5, just like he's right about everything else. Save your energy for brushing up on your OS X and iTunes, it's a matter of time before you will be using it...

  5. EvilGav 1

    Available/Being Used ?

    Thats lovely, 54% is "available" in HTML5, but how much is actually being consumed in HTML5 ?

    It could be 100% available in HTML5, but if only 20% of people (wild arse made up percentage) are using it, the metric is utterly irrelevant.

    1. Daniel 1

      One thing's for sure

      Anyone watching video on an Apple device is watching it as H.264 encoded, <video> tag embedded, content.

      Which is why it is being provided, at all, of course.

      Which was Jobs' aim all along.

      If we assume (and I'm sure the haters would prefer to assume this) that the majority of Apple devices tend to be used in more 'trivial' areas of Internet use, then we can also assume that there is a very large and growing number of devices, in existence, which have a disproportionate penchant for consuming video content, and which can only consume it as H.264 encoded, <video> tag embedded, content.

      If we also assume that it's true that "all Apple users have more money than sense", and that a "fool and his money are soon parted", then it's the 46% of sites that aren't bothering to address this market, which are looking like the real fools. There's nothing smart about ignoring the only consumers who are still behaving like there's no recession on.

      So regardless of how of it still exists, learning Flash, these days, is starting to look about as sensible as taking up Delphi.

      1. ThomH

        @Daniel 1

        All currently shipping Android phones can play H.264 <video> content but not Flash out of the box. Flash is a downloadable app, but officially only for Android 2.2 which didn't ship until May and has yet to make it to a lot of the handsets that pre-existed it and may never do so.

        There is therefore a sizeable chunk of people who I think you would be unwilling to make a money/sense judgment about with a decent phone that will consume only H.264 <video> content despite having had nothing to do with Apple.

  6. semprance

    HTML5 example

    Dailymotion has a neat demo of HTML5 video in action:

    Well worth a look if you want to see some neat tricks that, while possible in Flash, are probably not as easy as implement.

    1. Ray Simard

      @HTML5 example

      Note: That video is encoded with Theora (actually the Ogg container, Theora video and Vorbis audio codecs)

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Title Required

    I'm getting fed up of HTML5 always being referred to as some fucking video tag.

    HTML5 is so much more than just the video tag - the video tag is just one little part of it!

  8. highdev


    How will the HTML5 <video> tag deal with DRM - we all hate it but big content providers won't allow a situation where you can right-click Save their videos. Other than apps on mob devices, which is a separate issue, what will be done on the desktop?

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Trying to implement HTML5 video at the moment...

    I'm trying to implement HTML5 compatible video for a site that I work on, and I can tell you that it's a nightmare trying to get cross browser compatibility.

    Both Chrome and Safari like the H.264 version of the video and will quite happily play them if the codec is installed. However as far as I am aware, both require that the H.264 video source is the first source declared in the video tag. And if you want to get HTML5 video working in Firefox, you'll need to have the ogg version declared. Without it, you'll just get an empty player, and it doesn't drop through to a flash player if its defined.

    So for true cross browser compatibility you need to have 3 ways of providing video to your users, H.264, Ogg and Flash. In my opinion, until the browser makers can agree on an encoding format for HTML5 video, or at least all implement common fallback code we're going to left writing browser specific code or re-encoding our videos in multiple formats.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters


      >I can tell you that it's a nightmare trying to get cross browser compatibility

      Inevitable consequence of letting companies which benefit financially from the choices made so strongly influence Standards like HTML5. Since the same companies pay the salaries and expenses of W3C, its no great surprise HTML5 is so weak, so late and so exploited as a means of serving corporate agendas.

    2. Ray Simard

      @AC 201010281153

      Exactly. In fact, you need not even qualify your conclusion as your opinion; it's hard, provable fact. That is why the W3C's failure to specify an open codec is such a tragedy. W3C isn't really in the big interests' pockets: they fought, it succumbed to Apple under tremendous pressure. Not that it matters; the decision is what it is regardless of how it was coerced.

      Content providers aren't going to code in multiple formats for long; it's expensive, time- and resource-consuming and error-prone.. They'll slowly gravitate in one direction until it becomes a de facto standard. The big boys with the vested interests in H.264 will do (and spend) what it takes, carrots and sticks, to steer that trend in their favor.

      Web video with Theora looks great. At best, there's a marginal improvement with H.264 that is discernible only by a handful of especially sharp-eyed critics, if that. Google's codec ("WebM"?) is a newer successor to Theora and is open-source and royalty-free. One of the two surely can step in.

      Apple cited an "uncertain patent landscape" in resisting Theora; read: a patent landscape they and the rest of the MPEG-LA cabal (including Microsoft, for heaven's sake) cannot exploit in their favor. And I have no doubt that M$ is delighted that content using only H.264 won't play on anything in Linux. Multimedia support is one of Linux's remaining challenges. Progress there is good; but this could cripple that effort.

      I don't understand why this hasn't excited more response and pressure on W3C to reconsider.

      Meanwhile, if somehow enough content providers can be encouraged to choose Theora or WebM and eschew H.264, there's hope.

      (Note: The so-called forever-free H.264 license offered by MPEG-LA is sometimes thought to apply to content encoding and decoding products. It does not; it only applies to free web video broadcasts; see )

  10. Leo Davidson

    Liars often figure...

    Those stats seem rather misleading.

    1) Where are the figures for video that *isn't* encoded in H.264?

    There are a lot of videos on the web not using that codec, even if it is very popular for new content.

    2) Where are the figures for video that is served via Flash (whether H.264 or the older codec Flash also uses)?

    Video being available in one format does not exclude it from being available in another.

    There's little doubt that the HTML5 video tag is the way of the future but let's not pretend we're closer to it than we are.

    1. Ray Simard

      (@Liars often figure...) It's not too early at all.

      "There are a lot of videos on the web not using [the H.264] codec, even if it is very popular for new content."

      Unfortunately, that's not much comfort to Joe User, or you or me for that matter, when we try to watch a video that uses only that codec and it won't play. As more and more content uses it, as you say, the problem will get steadily worse.

      "Video being available in one format does not exclude it from being available in another."

      Yes, if the content provider doesn't mind incurring the lost time and expense of doing the encoding over again for each of the various codecs it wants to support.

      This is by no means too early to start addressing the problem before content providers gravitate toward H.264 and it becomes so entrenched as to be indispensable. Usability of any part of an Internet standard MUST NOT be allowed to become dependent on anything that is not open and free, much less, like H.264 is now, unavailable for some platforms at any price.

      Flash and similar things may indeed be proprietary; they are also arbitrary add-ons with their own vendor-defined syntax, using the <object> and <embed> tags created for just such things. The specification for the <video> tag, on the other hand, defines a specific syntax and functionality that must be universally compliant across content and browsers and native to them. That's why it was created in the first place.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "we all hate it but big content providers won't allow a situation where you can right-click Save their videos."

    Nothing. At the moment, thanks to a Firefox plugin it takes me one click to download flash video off of ANY site. How often do you see DRMs on Youtube?

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      TV shows

      Most of the officially uploaded TV shows on youtube are DRM encoded (4od, demand Five etc)

      Unplug can't download these to watch later, which is a shame as i would prefer to watch them on a nice big screen through my Geexbox media player attached to my 32Inch TV than on a small laptop screen

    2. highdev

      Slight Exaggeration

      Curious - can you confirm that it is easy to download any program you like from BBC iPlayer (which uses Flash on desktop browsers) with a Firefox plugin? Jeez, the BBC won't be happy...

    3. highdev


      Your point is irrelevant if the video itself is DRM'd - which of course most 'valuable' content is. HTML 5 <video> doesn't do DRM content, full stop.

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