html5For many years now, YouTube has used Adobe Flash Player as their default media player. With the rise of mobile devices and mobile viewing they adopted using HTML5 as a secondary technology to display their videos, mainly because Flash doesn’t function on any mobile devices. In an announcement on their blog, they are now making HTML5 their default player. Why? A big reason is that over 40% of videos viewed on YouTube are done so on mobile devices and that number is only rising. Rising like a rocket. The 40% number has been floated by YouTube for some time now, I would be willing to bet it’s now somewhere north of 50% or more.

Why Now?

Well, the growth of mobile video viewing is one reason. YouTube claims that they were not satisfied that HTML5 didn’t offer Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) streaming which is a fancy word for something that controls the quality of the the video you are viewing so it doesn’t stop playing to load the video on your device from YouTube’s Server (also known as buffering). If you have a super fast internet connection Adaptive Bitrate technology will play the highest quality version of the video. If you are on a dial up connection, are trying to access a video during peak evening hours or have spotty cell reception, it sees that and automatically “shrinks” the video quality down so it can still be viewed at the best resolution allowable while trying to avoid buffering. The quality of the video resolution may just not look as good as it could. Richard Leider, the Engineering Manager at YouTube wrote, “ABR has reduced buffering by more than 50 percent globally and as much as 80 percent on heavily congested networks.” My gut also tells me that Google / YouTube were also trying to come up with their own alternative to HTML5 but decided that ultimately HTML5 was a widely adopted technology so why reinvent the wheel at this point.

What Do I Need To Do?

Pretty much nothing. Many other websites streaming video content such as Netflix and Vimeo were already using HTML5 as their default solutions, YouTube was just lagging behind a bit. Your viewing isn’t going to be affected in any way, no matter what device you are viewing it on. The switch to HTML5 from Flash Player is seamless for the viewer.

The only action you may need to take is if you’ve been blogging for a while and were using some of the really old Flash Player codes to embed videos from YouTube on your website. YouTube will be shutting down Flash embeds (which usually started with <object> in the code) and their Flash API and encourage users to use their <iframe> API, which can detect whichever technology, be it HTML5 or Flash, would work best on the device being used. You simply will need to switch the old embed code out for the new.

Is Adobe Flash dead?

There’s a popular misconception that this means “Adobe Flash is dead”, which just isn’t true. Adobe Flash Player is pretty much only used by older websites with old embed codes now, but Adobe Flash as a program is still a very powerful tool. Several of our animators are what I would call “native” Flash animators, meaning it’s their go to program before After Effects or any other animation software. You can do things in Flash you can’t do in Illustrator, After Effects or any other design program. With the release of Adobe Flash Pro CC, you can now export video flawlessly. You can even publish HTML5 interactive content direction from Flash. So is the Adobe Flash Player dead? Sure, it has been for a few years now. However Adobe Flash as a program is still a very powerful tool for animation and interactive design.

So that’s a lot of technical mumbo jumbo about YouTube and it’s conversion to HTML5. Maybe more than you cared to know, to you I apologize. But to those who found this interesting, hopefully you can make sense of the switch now if you were reading about it elsewhere. Now you know what implications the switch may have for your business and your video content marketing. You may now resume watching cat videos on YouTube, don’t worry about the player.



Eric Guerin is the founder of Adelie Studios. He chooses to use his creative powers for good and not evil by helping businesses to better market themselves using animated marketing videos. He can easily be bribed with coffee. Read more of Eric’s posts