Thoughts on Flash, HTML5, and video

The HTML5 engine continues to gather steam!

However, Flash remains a completely viable option for a variety of rich-media experiences – the level of HTML5 support and features across the variety of platforms and devices is simply not far enough along or consistent enough to go with an HTML5 solution for RIA’s or video at this time.

For example, see the charts and their related direct links below as reference:



So plainly the ‘browser wars’ are dragging on, which is a good thing! Competition brings about innovation and prevents any given browser from stagnating. The race for HTML5 support certainly serves to hasten that competition as well. But, of course, as with any new technology or standard, there’s lots of work to be done! For example, here’s an interesting chart showing the breakdown between a variety of browsers and HTML5 features:


If you’re curious about the browser you happen to be using now, check out the HTML5 Test site.

So all that said, HTML5 support still has a long way to go for general support and even further to completely supplant Flash, and especially where video is concerned. Sure, HTML5 is coming along fairly well in general video support – for example, this in-depth article is already a bit outdated – but there are still significant issues to address between codec agreements and DRM. Let’s take a quick look at the codec support issue. Here’s a great chart by Longtail Video:


In fact, LongTail Video has an excellent article on ‘The State of HTML5 Video’ which is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in digging into the complexities of current HTML5 video support and delivery (market share, codecs, video tags, accessibility, etc.).

Of course, there are lots of ways coming about to handle HTML5 video, from open solutions to proprietary players. If nothing else, the push to HTML5 is sure opening up a new services market! Take a look at this chart showing a range of HTML video players:


(that image only shows about half of what is available!)

For a bit more pain and pleasure reading, check out Robert Reinhardt’s ‘The World of Pain that is HTML5 Video’ which really helps bring the whole picture into focus…at least, as much focus as can be found in the current HTML5 growth-spurt. The complexities involved with simply handling graceful delivery of just video via HTML5 and the variety of platforms and browsers is a just a subset of all the other components to be considered… Just wait until we get further into Canvas support! Designers may be pining for the days of good old Flash and the cross-platform/browser consistency.

There are several excellent resources out on the web to help determine what features may be ‘worthwhile’ in an HTML5 environment, best practices, and which may be better left aside (or help determine whether an HTML5 solution is feasible for your project at all). These sites include HTML5 Please and Can I Use, both providing recommendations and tables on maturity level across browsers, HTML5 Boilerplate, providing a handy ‘getting started’ template, and CSS3 Please, allowing real-time CSS template edits and results within the visiting browser.

Also note that Adobe recently released Adobe Edge Preview 4. This tool shows some good promise to put a nice UI on top of the complexities of HTML5…in tradition similar to tools like Dreamweaver. It’s only available for Vista or Windows 7 for now, however, so XP users…that’s one more reason to upgrade.