Video Essentials

Myths and Misconceptions About HTML5

There’s been a lot of hype about HTML5, so naturally a lot of errors have crept into the discussion. To help you separate truth from fiction, we spoke to two experts on the subject.

Zohar Babin and Michael Dale both work for (and both work for the open source online video platform Kaltura, which runs the site). They’re currently in Los Angeles for the 2010 Streaming Media West conference, where they led a pre-conference workshop on HTML5 and Web standards.

Before their session, we took a few minutes of their time to talk about these HTML5 myths.

Myth 1: HTML5 is a direct competitor to Flash.
You don’t need to choose, because they can work together, Dale and Babin explain. HTML5 is the evolution of HTML, the markup language that defines the Web (and existed well before Flash). Flash, on the other hand, is a proprietary technology and is able to evolve faster. The two complement each other, with Flash picking up the features that HTML5 can’t yet do.

Myth 2: Adding a <video> tag is all you need to do to serve video.

HTML5 might make serving video easy, but not that easy. You’ll still need to create a video player with your branded look, serve multiple bitrate streams, and work with a CDN or OVP to host your work. Apple is promoting HTML5 as if it’s ready to go as an alternative to Flash, Dale and Babin say, but serving video with HTML5 isn’t simply a one-step operation.

Myth 3: Flash is responsible for a lot of browser annoyances.
Flash can create pop-ups and animated ads, sure, but so can HTML5. We’re starting to see them now. In fact, the Web will become more annoying, not less, once HTML5 is more prevalent, Dale and Babin explain. At the moment, you can use browser plug-ins to stop animations and strip out irritating Flash. That won’t be possible once HTML code is building the offending page items.

Myth 4: Apple is driving HTML5 on Steve Jobs’s whim.
Apple had a clear business reason for opting to go with HTML5 over Flash, says Dale. Adobe didn’t open up its platform fast enough to make it vertically integrated on software and device platforms. Ironically, though, “They needed an open platform so they could make it less open,” he adds, referring to Apple’s closed app system.

Myth 5: HTML5 and Flash offer similar features.

There isn’t a feature parity between HTML5 video and Flash, and advertisers are strongly aware of it, say Dale and Babin. When viewing an HTML5 video ad, for example, you can easily drag the playhead forward and go straight to the main content, something advertisers can prevent with Flash. HTML5 simple doesn’t give nearly the same control over the video.


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  1. I’d like to call BS on most of this:

    1: Just because things are complimentary, in some sense, doesn’t mean they aren’t competitors. Windows is a better platform for gaming than OSX. OSX is better for almost everything else. They’re still competitors.

    2: Adding a video tag IS all you need to do to serve up video. I’ve tried it before and it works, as long as the browser supports html5 video and whatever codec you’re using. (of course if you want your media served from a CDN using a custom player, then they’re right — you need to find a CDN and a custom player).

    3: Flash IS responsible for a lot of browser annoyances. So is html, but to say that someone can’t filter html out is to ignore the power of an add-on like ad-block.

    5: This is true right now, but it’s a red herring. Ask again in 12 months.

    I don’t know what the point of this article was, but it was a waste of your time.

    Posted by Anonymous Coward | November 3, 2010, 10:52 am
    • RE: 1: Just because things are complimentary, in some sense, doesn’t mean they aren’t competitors. Windows is a better platform for gaming than OSX. OSX is better for almost everything else. They’re still competitors.

      If this were so, and in the real world that it is in, Apple would be the dominant sales, dominate user interest and total user percentage ranging from home to home professional to SMB to schools to corporates.

      Since this clearly isn’t so…take your findings from fact, not fancy.

      Posted by JRTENN | November 9, 2010, 8:49 am
      • I’m going to have to side with Anonymous Coward on this one.

        Jrtenn — you’re assuming that the most popular is always “the best”, or that if Apple were so great they would be the market leader. I’m sure we can all name a number of superior products/services that weren’t considered the biggest sellers. This is due to things like price, availability, distribution, etc. Marketing (and perception) are the biggest drivers here.

        Apple has done an excellent job in marketing the iPod. When it was first released I couldn’t imagine why I would need to carry 1,000 songs around in an overpriced electronic device. I had all my CDs, all my cassette tapes. Was the iPod superior to other forms of listening to music on the go? I think we can look back and say ‘yes’, but at the time I wasn’t so sure. That’s where the people’s perception (sometimes their perception is a myth) comes in… and peer pressure and desire. The more people who purchased an iPod and the more glamourous it seemed the more everyone else wanted one. And with each new iPod that desire to own one became greater.

        Apple rode that marketing pony right up to the iPhone… which people couldn’t wait to get their hands on. And need I even mention the iPad which has consumed 95% of the netbook market (according to many)? Is the iPad superior to netbooks? I guess that’s one person’s opinion over another’s. The point here is that marketing is what ultimately creates the most-sold products and services. If Apple had learned that a long time ago we might not have a Windows-dominated computer world.

        Marketing creates the hype, and the people do the rest (mixing in truth, lies, and mostly a lot of myth). I still encounter people today who claim they can’t own a Macintosh because they “still need access to their Microsoft Word Documents.” The myth that Macintosh products don’t play well with Windows documents is a myth that has been circulating for well over a decade… yet it’s simply not true, but has unfortunately affected the overall sales of Apple products.

        Rather than fight those myths and mistruths full-force (as they’ve tried many times), Apple decided to lure people in with their cheaper products, such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad line. Once people get those and realize how great they are to use, they’ll trust the company more and might consider purchasing an Apple computer the next time they need one.

        We’re already seeing Apple cut bigger and bigger slices in the laptop/desktop pie. It may only be a matter of time before Apple becomes the more popular computer.

        In the laptop/desktop OS market Microsoft is dominant in sales. Doesn’t mean they’re the best — it just means they have the most sales.

        In the user interest category — you might want to do some research on this one. A LOT more people are “interested” in finding out about Apple products right now than they are about Windows. Again… this is due to Marketing and right now Apple (due to the iOS line) is the big “thing” so it’s creating much more buzz around their other products. I’m not say this is making people purchase right now, since you stated this as “user interest” and not “user purchase”.

        As far as the total users, there is no doubt that Windows is dominating almost all aspects of every industry. But just because people are using Windows doesn’t mean they ‘want’ to. Again… the myths are out there (from IT professionals who like having a job, and therefore really enjoy all the Help Desk work they get from Windows users all the way to mom and pops who still think they can’t run Microsoft Word on a Macintosh), but those myths have been changing. The bigger question is: Out of the total number of Windows users out there, how many of them are HAPPY with Windows and how many of them would be interested in looking into an Apple product if they were assured they could still do all their work/hobby/leisure computing on one?

        Just some “fancy” food for thought.

        Posted by David L Good | November 9, 2010, 9:54 am
  2. One thing we are all forgetting and that is Apple created the first real home computer and therefore had the jump on Everyone else when it came to sales and marketing. Once the PC platform became available it almost immediately became dominant. Why? Freedom of Choice.

    Apple has always been about Control. Do they make a good computer? Are they innovative? Are their comps “Cool”? Yes on all counts. Their marketing strategies continue to be superior but their marketshare remains a fraction of total computer sales. Why? Freedom of Choice.

    That being said I look forward to being able to use both HTML5 “and” Flash on My PC.

    IMHO I don’t think that Apple is gonna be too successful trying to ram HTML5 down our throats while ignoring Flash which, btw, is favored by the overwhelming majority of users on the planet. Why? Freedom of Choice. Nobody likes to be bullied 🙂

    Posted by Deighv | November 10, 2010, 7:59 am
  3. I agree with a lot of comments made here. I think that more than anything HTML5 vs. Flash video is a religion war. It really depends on who’s god you want to believe.

    Two other comments regarding HTML5:
    1. I think it will have a huge impact on embedding video in email (email campaigns, newsletters, etc…)
    2. Video SEO is going to be a lot easier with HTML5.


    Posted by Yaniv Axen | November 12, 2010, 12:15 pm
    • I agree with you on that. Really it’s down to what technology is best suited for the project at hand.

      What HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript are doing as they progress is reducing the need to do simpler tasks in flash (such as embedding video) so that flash developers can put their efforts into more exciting AR and PaperVision based applications.

      Posted by graham | November 18, 2010, 9:53 am
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