The demise of Flash has been long, lingering, and painful — and highly over due in many people’s books. There has been a spate of high profile ditchings of Flash recently: Speedtest.net, Twitch, Chrome and Netflix to name but a few. Now Facebook has thrown its hat in the ring switching to HTML5 video.
This is a move that is browser-agnostic, and means that every single video you see on the social network will default to HTML5. While many will see this as a cause for celebration, the change does not completely spell the death of Flash — it will continue to be used on Facebook for many games.
Facebook’s Daniel Baulig says that the social network is in talks with Adobe to find a reliable way to switch games to HTML5, but for now it is videos that are affected by the changes. The company has spent time diagnosing HTML5 problems in various web browsers, and this ultimately led to the decision to roll out HTML5 video support to all browsers rather than creating a fragmented experience for users.
HTML5 is not only faster and more secure than Flash, but it also allows for easier development and scaling. Facebook reports that videos start to play faster, and this leads to greater interaction.
While the switch to HTML5 comes as more and more companies are fleeing from Flash and its endless security problems, the benefits work in Facebook’s favor as well as users’. Baulig explains that HTML5 allows for better data gathering:
Our video logs help us understand how people use the video player and how it performs. We share some of that data, like view count, with video owners, and we use other data to determine how many and which videos to show to people. We had to make sure the new video player logs the equivalent data and events in the same scenarios as the old player. Implementation differences and details can make this surprisingly hard. To ensure logging correctness, we created a test suite that performs the same user-interaction scenarios against both video players and then validates that the logs are equivalent. This way we had high confidence in the data that our new HTML5 video player reports.