YouTube backs Adobe Flash over HTML5

Google has weighed in heavily in favor of HTML5, but engineers at Google-owned YouTube maintain Flash is still the best platform for video distribution

In the ongoing debate over whether to use Flash or HTML5, Google has weighed in heavily in favor of using HTML5. The engineers at the Google-owned YouTube, however, still prefer Flash, if a company blog item posted Tuesday from the company is any indication.

"While HTML5's video support enables us to bring most of the content and features of YouTube to computers and other devices that don't support Flash Player, it does not yet meet all of our needs," said YouTube software engineer John Harding in the post. "Today, Adobe Flash provides the best platform for YouTube's video distribution requirements."

[ InfoWorld's Peter Wayner weighs in on HTML5 vs. Flash: The case for Flash. | Google recently launched an HTML5 developer site. | Keep up with app dev issues and trends with InfoWorld's Fatal Exception blog. ]

In short, HTML5 still lacks many of the features needed for video presentation. And, as it happens, Flash provides all these features.

"We need to do more than just point the browser at a video file like the image tag does -- there's a lot more to it than just retrieving and displaying a video," he wrote.

Harding pointed out some of the HTML5's shortcomings.

One of the biggest concerns was the lack of a single video format standard. "Users upload 24 hours of video every minute to YouTube, so it's important to minimize the number of video formats we support," he said. At present, the company encodes uploaded videos in H.264, which is not supported by all Web browsers. Flash, which can run in all browsers, supports H.264

YouTube also needs finer controls for video playback, features that will become increasingly important as the service moves into offering video of live events and full-length commercial movies. One is the ability to adjust buffering rates. Another feature missing is content protection. HTML5 and the browsers also lack the ability to play back video in full screen mode, which is offered Flash (as well as Flash competitor Silverlight, which is used by Netflix) .

Flash also provides additional capabilities that will serve YouTube in the future, such as the ability to securely embed content on another site and the ability to support two-way video chats from Web cams.

The choice of using Flash or HTML5 for advanced Web presentation grew into a full-scale debate earlier this year when Apple declined to support Flash in its newly-released iPad. The company cited buggy performance and Adobe System's sole control over the technology as factors.

Joab Jackson covers enterpise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's email address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com.

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