January 30, 2010

Adobe, Apple, Flash, Porn, iPad, HTML5, Lions and Tigers and Bears: Oh My!

Greetings. Love it or hate it, we all know that Adobe Flash has become the de facto standard for Web video -- that is, it's now by far the most common mechanism for delivery of streaming (and "steaming") video on YouTube, news sites, and most everywhere else.

Without getting into the convoluted details of licensing, containers, and codecs, the bottom line is that Adobe effectively controls Flash, and reported disputes between Adobe and Apple have contributed to keeping Flash off the iPhone, and now, the iPad. During the big iPad unveiling a few days ago, many observers noted Web page "missing plugin" holes where Flash content would otherwise have appeared.

In fact, until last night, some of Apple's most prominent promotional materials for the iPad appeared to show Flash content being displayed -- triggering a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, and very sudden changes in those promos.

By the way, released Android systems don't have full, recent Flash players either yet, but this functionality was demonstrated many months ago, and Flash for at least some Android versions reportedly will be released quite soon.

Back to Adobe vs. Apple. Apparently in an attempt to pressure Apple on this score, Adobe has now published a montage demonstrating what the absence of Flash means on various pages. What attracted particular attention and raised eyebrows was that one of Adobe's examples happened to be a hardcore porn site ("Bang Brothers").

With rapid adoption of HTML5, it may be possible to move Web video out from under Adobe's control by replacing Flash entirely. YouTube and Vimeo have just started beta testing HTML5 video players.

However, there's another issue. Right now those tests (as far as I know) are using HTML5 as a container for H.264 encoded video. H.264 itself (actually now part of the MPEG-4 standard) is also encumbered by various licensing issues.

To get fully out from under this licensing mess, one possibility would be to use HTML5 with an open codec such as Ogg Theora. Whether or not Ogg Theora in its current state of development is efficient enough to be used by high volume video sites like YouTube is currently a matter of some dispute.

Sometimes it feels like only Glinda the Good Witch could untangle all this. Unfortunately, the ruby slippers are not public domain.


Posted by Lauren at January 30, 2010 05:09 PM | Permalink
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