YouTube just announced that it’s defaulting to HTML5 for video streaming in what YouTube engineering manager Richard Leider is calling, a “critical step forward.” This is another huge win for HTML5 and related technologies, like WebRTC. As the need to improve content delivery grows, thanks in part to richer content, the adoption of these modern technologies has been on the rise.
This announcement is not entirely unexpected though. In 2010, YouTube first introduced HTML5 for video streaming as an experiment. At the same time, Google created a list of reasons why they weren’t going all in with the technology. Since then, HTML5, and its video streaming specifications, have grown up and most of these issues have been resolved, paving the way for YouTube’s switch. One example of this is the Adaptive Bitrate issue, which has recently been solved and can lessen user buffering by 50-80% thanks to Media Source Extensions.
So why switch? Quite simply, HTML5 video streaming provides a better user experience and lowers bandwidth. This technology will allow users to start watching videos 15-80% faster than existing technologies do, while decreasing bandwidth by 35%. In Google’s own blog post, they specifically referred to 4K and HD video streaming as part of the motivation. With publishers around the world nervous about delivering rich content, YouTube’s adoption of HTML5 video streaming is likely a trend that will be followed by many others. In fact, other providers, including Netflix and Vimeo, have already made the switch.
This is not only a huge win for WebRTC and HTML5, but it's also a big loss for Flash. While Flash requires a user-side plug-in to work, HTML5 works naturally, as it's part of the infrastructure of the Web. This difference significantly reduces the barriers to video streaming for users. The plug-in issue is viewed as a huge problem by many, including Steve Jobs, who published a manifesto on why iOS would not support Flash.
For now, it seems that HTML5 and WebRTC will continue to disrupt the CDN industry. As more companies (both start ups and incumbents) are preparing themselves for richer content, this trend is likely here to stay. At Peer5, we are using HTML5 and WebRTC to provide a better video streaming experience for users, while helping content providers shrink their bandwidth costs. To learn more about video streaming with Peer5, click here.