For fans of HTML5, the release of the iPad, five years ago, was big news. The much-hyped device was not compatible with the popular multimedia platform Flash, a choice Apple doubled down on a few weeks later when Steve Jobs published his now famous “Thoughts on Flash”. Five years ago, one of the biggest technology companies put their weight behind HTML5 as a successor to Flash. Let’s take a look at where the technology currently stands, and how it has evolved since then.
By and large, HTML5 video has been a big success. All browsers have by now supported HTML5 video for several years. Implementations are robust and mature, leaving key players like JW Player, Vimeo and, just recently, YouTube, to move from Flash to HTML5 by default.
A major roadblock for HTML5 video initially was the fragmented codec support amongst browsers. Luckily, Firefox started supporting the H264 video codec last year. This closed the WebM/H264 codec debate and allowed publishers to store and stream a single set of files. Within the JW Player network, 88% of all video delivered is now in H264.
Furthermore, the specification and rapid implementation of HTML5 Text Tracks allowed for an unprecedented level of accessibility support in all browsers. It’s now easier than ever for publishers to include captions and subtitles with their videos, to the benefit of their diverse audiences.
In sum, HTML5 video is currently the best solution for video deployment on a wide range of use cases – product marketing, online training, enterprise and personal video. However, we’re not there yet.
Premium Video To Dos
As some quick online research can point out, most major media portals are still running Flash players. This is because HTML5 video still has some cross-browser deficiencies for premium content. There are 3 areas in particular: Fullscreen video (with the Fullscreen API), live streaming (with the Media Source Extensions) and content protection (with the Encrypted Media Extensions). Here is the current cross-browser status in a nutshell:
1 Only on Windows 8, not on Windows 7.
2 Only on Mac OSX, not on iOS.
Chrome is the first and only browser to have implemented the full set of premium video APIs. The others are still working on filling their gaps, either in terms of functionality or cross-platform support. Ironically, while Apple was the company that kickstarted HTML5 video, it’s now the one slowing it down. Only Safari on desktop has (some) premium video APIs; for iOS there’s no (visible) progress in these areas.
Given the newness of the MSE/EME specifications and the speed with which Fullscreen and TextTracks were implemented, we’re very confident HTML5 will soon be the default for prime time media content too. As we’ve done since the beginning, JW Player will continue to support and leverage such developments, for example with our upcoming support for MPEG DASH.
We’ll also continue to monitor and publish updates about browser implementation updates. As an example, see our just updated State of HTML5 Video Report for an exact overview of what functionality works where.