YouTube Beta Testing HTML5 Instead of Flash for Video

Screen shot 2010-01-21 at 11.18.55 AM

Last night, Daring Fireball linked to YouTube's new opt-in beta that allows you to get HTML5 video instead of the traditional Flash-wrapped kind.

Why is this important? HTML5 is an open standard, not owned by any company (including Apple), it's much lighter on CPU and battery life than Flash, and doesn't suffer from increasing malware attacks or onerous "cookie"/privacy issues the way Flash does.

And while it may be purely coincidental that this beta comes on the eve of an expected Apple tablet announcement (a device that will surely benefit from better CPU and battery, not to mention security and privacy), it's interesting to remember that the last big change in YouTube -- the move to H.264 -- occurred back with the launch of the original iPhone and its YouTube app.

Now, it should be pointed out that the HTML5 beta is only available for YouTube.com proper right now, and not for videos embedded elsewhere. But here's hoping that's the next step. (And that Firefox decides to spend some of their Google Search revenue on licensing MP4 so we get a, you know, standard standard).

If that happens, if automatic buffering is fixed, and if other companies follow suit (the way Vimeo and even Microsoft SilverLight are already doing specifically for the iPhone), we could be seeing the beginning of a huge shift in online video, one that will crash headlong into Adobe's plans for Flash 10.1.

If, if, if. Fair enough. But most of the time when people complain about the lack of Flash on the iPhone, it's not actually the lack of Flash that bothers them but the fact that a lot of the video they want to see is wrapped up in Flash. If YouTube is an early bellwether that things are changing on that score, and people start getting their videos without Flash, we're guessing the complaints will in large part evaporate.

UPDATE: As The Reptile points out in the comments below, Google owns YouTube and Google is all-in on WebKit as the foundation for the Chrome browser, Chrome OS, and Android browser. They've shown repeatedly they'll push for standards and for the faster adoption of web technologies because it benefits them. Since Apple's Safari is WebKit, it benefits iPhone users as well. That makes this interesting.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

YouTube Beta Testing HTML5 Instead of Flash for Video

14 Comments

It's not an if, it's a when. The question is when when will be. With Google clearly behind this there's no doubt that others will see this as the way to go in the future. Hopefully, this will not be a traditional open ended Beta for Google and they have an idea of when they want truly launch this so it encourages others to move as swiftly.

So I'm really curious. With all this talk about Google and Apple beginning to have this big switch...what about YouTube?
Yeah, Apple can take away everything else Google and replace it. Bt YouTube is one of those things that isn't UI dependent. If that app is gone, there's going to be a lot of upset people.
I HIGHLY doubt it would happen, but I've just never heard anyone speak upon that theory.

Okay, I'm a Palm Pre user from Sprint. I love my phone & I love the iPhone. I hate that it's kinda like a rivalry with the two. But regardless, my question is, since I know the Palm Pre doesn't have Flash & I'm sure the iPhone doesn't either, does this mean we can stream the videos from our phones without flash? And if so, how?

@ Janey,
Dont be ignorant. Flash brings much to the browser we couldn't have any other way - including HTML5. Jump in your way back machine to the nasty sites of the 90's and stick yer head in the sand with yer flash hate.

I'm as excited as anyone that javascript engines are getting faster and faster, html5 is shaping up to include some really kick ass features, and css3 is really looking nice... but if you think its a hop skip and a jump to get sites like http://www.verbatim.jp/senshuken/ in html. you are sadly mistaken. you can wish pain on Flash all you want, but throwing hissy fits are not productive.

i would like to use youtube ever . but from last 2weeks i am facing problum . i am feeling alone myself without youtube website .its great entertainment provider and can not live without this

i am so much desprite to search youtube downloader . i am feeling my self alone without this website . i would like to contact and stay in touch with you