Flash powers almost all the video on the web nowadays, so it’s obviously good enough. But is there a better way? YouTube, and now Vimeo, who’re both giddily jumping into bed with HTML, sure seem to think so.
Vimeos new HTML5 system is just like YouTubes, in both execution and technical details, in that itll only work with a few browsers—Safari and Chrome, for now—and that its compatible with most, but not all, of the companys video libraries. Its something that most people wont bother to try at this point, and if they do, theyre probably be underwhelmed, since HTML5 video playback is almost indistinguishable from Flash video playback. (Moving pictures!)
But it’s primed to be something that everyone ends up using, and that would be a Very Good Thing. Flash video performs terribly on Mac OS X and Linux, and on the few mobile devices that do support it, playback is uniformly terrible. And generally speaking, it’s a plug-in. We whine about having to install Silverlight to use Bing Maps or watch some kinds of video, but it’s a plugin the same way that Flash is.
HTML5 allows certain types of video to be rendered in the browser natively, like JPEGs or GIFs are now. It’s an objectively simpler, more efficient solution, and disregarding the massive infrastructure built up around Flash video, it would be the obvious choice.
Luckily, YouTube accounts for a hefty chunk of said architecture, their catalog is rendered in HTML5-friendly h.264 format already—thats how you watch in on the iPhone and Android, by the way—and with help from smaller sites like Vimeo, they could actually get the ball rolling on, you know, murdering Flash video. In a world where everybodys browser fully supports h.264 HTML5 video—a world thats a few years away, at least—we wouldnt have to wait years for Flash support in our new phones, wouldnt have to settle of chugging video playback on near-new machines, and we wouldnt have to put up overladen, poorly-designed proprietary Flash players getting in the way of our content. Wed just have…video.