Flash takes backseat as YouTube moves to HTML5

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Flash takes backseat as YouTube moves to HTML5

Tech advances let online video giant move forward.

Google's online video service YouTube will now use HTML5 technology as the default media player instead of Adobe's Flash Player, the company announced today.

YouTube videos will use the HTML5 tag by default with newer web browsers such as Google Chrome, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 11, Apple's Safari 8 and beta versions of Mozilla Firefox, the company said on its engineering blog.

YouTube's engineering manager Richard Leider said an earlier move to HTML5 as the preferred video delivery platform was held back by lack of support for technologies critical for a good viewing experience - such as adaptive bit rate for less buffering and full-screen toggle.

Such technologies are now available in HTML5 after four years' of development, Leider said.

He also cited the open Google VP9 codec - which compresses high-definition 4K, 1080p and 720p videos with a third bandwidth saving yet displays them with high, 60 frames per second rates and faster starts - as enabling the move to HTML5.

Content protection and digital rights management features such as the Encrypted Media Extensions (EMS) and Common Encryption now make it possible to control the delivery of videos with HTML5.

In the past, content protection was deeply embedded into delivery platforms such as Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight, Leider said.

Embeds for YouTube will now be done with inline frame tags rather than Flash objects. Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC), which allows media to be sent to and received from web browsers, is now used by YouTube for uploading pre-recorded and live video streams.

Adobe's Flash Player has been a popular choice for playback of audio and video in web browsers, used by many large internet content providers like Google and BBC - despite being plagued by frequent remotely exploitable vulnerabilities.

Over the last few years, Flash Player usage among websites has declined, with W3 Web Technology Surveys pegging it below 12 percent market share in January this year.

In contrast, HTML5 has gained support in recent years from the likes of Apple and Microsoft. Video streaming giant Netflix has long been a proponent of HTML5, as has YouTube competitor Vimeo.

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