For years, Flash was the video of choice when it came to life on YouTube, but for users of Google (News - Alert) Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, and those using the current Firefox beta, there's a change in the wind. For some time, the idea of YouTube making the move from Flash to HTML5 video has been in the works, and now, it's official; YouTube (News - Alert) has started the move to make the HTML5 player the default player of video on the site.
The HTML5 beta was available to users, but more as a side choice than an actual platform. Indeed, some videos wouldn't even work with HTML5, though the use of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) in HTML5 has allowed YouTube to offer up a complete rights management solution. YouTube's Richard Leider, who serves as engineering manager, noted that using EME allows for a separation between content protection and content delivery, which means that the same HTML5 player can be used on several different platforms. Leider also noted that YouTube wasn't alone in this development, as several other video providers have turned to HTML5 in a bid to serve up video faster, better, and on more platforms. Both Netflix and Vimeo (News - Alert) are turning to the concept, according to Leider, and such aren't alone in the field. Netflix, however, does still have quite a bit of Silverlight in its video delivery systems, so the process is likely a gradual one.
YouTube is also eagerly pointing out its use of the VP9 codec, which has been a part of “hundreds of billions” of videos served up already. Plus, YouTube notes that its use of the adaptive bitrate streaming concept allows for higher-quality video to be streamed with less buffering getting in the way and slowing up the mix, meaning that video—as Leider put it—is now “faster and smoother” than seen before.
There's a lot of value in using HTML5 as a video delivery platform, particularly in that it works well on a variety of different platforms, keeping development costs to something of a minimum and allowing ready access to new audiences who weren't formerly putting the system to work on other platforms. Yet there does seem to be a note of mixed reaction when it comes to this decision; some appear to believe that HTML5 isn't itself quite “ready for prime time”, so to speak, and needed some more in the way of optimization before it became such a major part of one of the biggest video streaming sites around.
Still, with YouTube being a fairly major part of a lot of people's entertainment budget—and with good reason, too; there's a host of videos in just about every classification ranging from short horror film to comedy to cat videos and beyond—bolstering its capability to present said video smoothly and efficiently is going to prove valuable in the end to YouTube's users, content providers, and advertisers as well. This likely won't prove a bad decision, and may well give us just the edge we needed to make YouTube video a lot easier to come by regardless of where we are and on what we're watching that content.
Edited by Alisen Downey