YouTube has announced that its web-based video player will now use HTML5 instead of Adobe Flash by default, after working on the transition for the past four years.
A number of technical issues needed to be ironed out before the switch could be made, but YouTube’s decision to use HTML5 should provide benefits for developers, content creators and consumers alike.
Amongst a number of limitations, HTML5 previously lacked support for Adaptive Bitrate (ABR), which helps videos play with reduced buffering. Now that this issue has been overcome, HTML5 can become YouTube's primary video platform.
ABR has been shown to reduce buffering by more than 50 percent globally and by as much as 80 per cent on congested networks. It also enables YouTube to run MediaSource Extensions meaning live streaming should run more smoothly on games consoles like the Xbox One and PS4, as well as other devices like Google’s Chromecast.
YouTube will also be able to reduce video loading times, file sizes and bandwidth used, as HTML5 supports the VP9 codec, which also ensures higher quality video resolution.
Richard Leider, engineering manager at YouTube, explained that the advancements made to the HTML5 platform had benefits not just for his company but the entire industry.
“Other content providers like Netflix and Vimeo, as well as companies like Microsoft and Apple have embraced HTML5 and been key contributors to its success,” he wrote. “By providing an open standard platform, HTML5 has also enabled new classes of devices like Chromebooks and Chromecast. You can support HTML5 by using the API everywhere you embed YouTube videos on the web.”
YouTube began offering HTML5 functionality in an experimental stage in 2010, but it had not become the default video platform until today’s announcement. You can find out more regarding the switch to HTML5 via YouTube's developer blog post here.