So, wasn’t HTML5 supposed to make me Flash-free?

Just like Multimedia Mike, I have been quite sceptic regarding seeing HTML5 as a saviour of the open web. Not only because I dislike Ogg to a passion after having tried to parse it myself without the help of libogg (don’t get me started), but because I can pragmatically expect a huge number of problems related to serve multiple video files variant depending on browser and operating system. Lacking common ground, it’s generally a bad situation.

But I have been hoping that Google’s commitment to support HTML5 video, especially in Youtube, would have given me a mostly Flash-free environment; unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. There is a post on the Youtube API blog from last month that tries to explain users why they are still required to use Flash. On the other hand, it has the sour taste that reminds me of Microsoft’s boasting about Windows Genuine Advantage. I guess that notes such as these:

Without content protection, we would not be able to offer videos like this .

to land me on a page that says at the top “This rental is currently unavailable in your country.” without any further notice, and without a warning that Your Mileage May Vary, makes it very likely to have a mixed feeling about a post like that.

Now, from that same post, I got the feeling that for now Google is not planning on supporting embedded Youtube using HTML5, and relied entirely on Flash for that:

Flash Player’s ability to combine application code and resources into a secure, efficient package has been instrumental in allowing YouTube videos to be embedded in other web sites. Web site owners need to ensure that embedded content is not able to access private user information on the containing page, and we need to ensure that our video player logic travels with the video (for features like captions, annotations, and advertising). While HTML5 adds sandboxing and message-passing functionality, Flash is the only mechanism most web sites allow for embedded content from other sites.

Very unfortunate, given that a number of website, including one of a friend of mine actually use Youtube to embed some videos; even my blog has a post using it. It’s still a shame, because it’s a loss, for Google, of the iPad users.. or is it, at all? I have played around a minute with an iPad at the local Mediaworld (Mediamarkt) last week. And I looked at my friend’s website with it. The videos load perfectly using HTML5 I guess, given that it does not support Flash at all.

So what’s the trick? Does Google provide HTML5-enabled embedded videos when it detects the iPhoneOS/iOS Safari identification in the user-agent? Is it Safari instead to translate the Youtube links into HTML5-compatible links? In the former case, why does it not do that when it detects Chrome/Chromium as well? In the latter, why can’t there be an extension to do the same for Chrome/Chromium?

Once again, my point is that you cannot simply characterize Apple and Google as being absolutely evil and absolutely good; there is no “pureness” in our modern world as it is, and I don’t think that trying to strive for that is going to work at all… extremes are not suited for the human nature, even extreme purity.

6 thoughts on “So, wasn’t HTML5 supposed to make me Flash-free?

  1. Common questions. Normally, I don’t try to educate anyone via the comment section because most people don’t want to learn. However, I know that you will understand, given your history with the multimedia projects.iGadgets have been YouTube-enabled ever since the original iPhone in 2007. Even my first-gen iPod Touch plays YouTube. As you’re probably aware, the videos themselves are just MP4/H.264/AAC. YouTube uses a Flash SWF file to deliver these videos to most desktop computers (with a few other features, of course). But Apple worked out a method with Google to deliver these same videos via a different application.HTML5 is largely a meaningless techno-buzzword and is growing more so by the day. It certainly doesn’t apply in this case.


  2. Hi Diego, you’ve got great blog!If you want html5 video on youtube try: need chromium (Google’s browser) for it, because Mozilla doesn’t support h264 in Firefox or better to say Google is pushing h264, because it’s propriatery and they already have license for it.On the other hand there are other sites that use open standards (Ogg/Theora), for example:http://openvideo.dailymotio…is in html5 and you don’t need flash for it (and it works in Firefox)Havis


  3. Havis, I already signed in for the HTML5 beta for YouTube but that does not unfortunately include embedded videos in other websites.Mike I understand what you say, and Android as well has its own application for playing back YouTube videos, but that _also_ does not work with embedded videos that get opened in a different application. Mobile Safari from the iPad instead loads the video, and since as far as I could tell Apple didn’t provide extra plugins for the Mobile Safari, it means that they are replacing the flash-based embedded with HTML5 <video> tag… and if Apple could do that, why isn’t Google doing so as well with Chromium?


  4. bq. The videos load perfectly using HTML5 I guess, given that it does not support Flash at all. So what’s the trick? Does Google provide HTML5-enabled embedded videos when it detects the iPhoneOS/iOS Safari identification in the user-agent? Is it Safari instead to translate the Youtube links into HTML5-compatible links?I looked into it with a packet sniffer once, and I can confirm that youtube always serves a mp4 payload (h.264 + aac) as soon as you query the terminal resource with a iPhoneOS User-Agent.At the same time, embedding only works so seamlessly because there is also a “youtube app”:… pre-installed on all these devices, perfectly imitating the Flash client look & feel. As soon as Safari encounters an *object* or *embed* tag, however ill-formed, with a _data_ attribute or a _movie_ parameter pointing to youtube, the app is taking over. So it really is just a big kludge to get this special case working (youtube on iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch): as far is I know, HTML5 is just left out in the cold completely.


  5. Thanks for the information Sylvain… I guess that it would have been too much to hope for Google/Apple to do something proper rather than hacking something up for their own usage only… sigh.


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