HTML5, Flash and the Battle for Faster Cat Videos

Greg Schechter (YouTube), Phil Harnish (YouTube)
Web Performance Mission City
Average rating: ***..
(3.75, 8 ratings)

Proposed title:
HTML5, Flash and the Battle for Faster Cat Videos:
A look at the advantages, and disadvantages of adapting to HTML5 at YouTube.

Target Audience:
This talk is targeted at intermediate developers. It’s best of one attending to have some familiarity with HTML5 or Flash video, but it’s not required to understand many of the topics or subtopics.

HTML5; it’s new, it’s awesome, and it’s powerful, but can it take down the champ of video distribution, Flash. Which technology’s got the ability to bring cat video to the next level. This talk will cover the many challenges of both HTML5 and YouTube adapting to change video distribution on the web.


Performance – Faster cat videos makes happier users. We’ll take a look at the different performance metrics of HTML5 and Flash. Which has a faster video watching experience? How do the different browsers perform? What’s the effect on mobile and embed video views?

Accessibility/Device-ability – People want to watch their videos in many different places and in many different ways. Which experience provides better support for non-desktop devices, like cell phones, video game consoles, or TV boxes? Which technology has better accessibility support?

Features – YouTube has a wide variety of ways people can consume their cat videos. Does HTML5 provide a way to provide the same feature set as Flash? Which one has a greater feature set?
3D – With HTML5 can I still see my cat videos in 3D? Will there be new ways for me to see them in 3D.
Streams and Uploads – Many people record their videos directly from the YouTube website. If this possible with HTML5? If I’m watching a feature film on cats can I quickly seek to different places in the video? Can HTML5 deal with a live stream of my cats?
Full screen – HD cat videos are best suited for consumption in full screen. Can this been done with HTML5?

Security – What are the new security concerns with HTML5? What about secure streams, like DRM?

Development Environment – Years of work have gone into the building the flash player. How can we share the code and assets to develop both simultaneously?

Embeds and API’s – Embedding (putting cat videos on other people’s websites) is a big part of YouTube. What changes are happening to our video embedding and our public API’s to interact with them?

iframe challenges – security and having to deal with asynchronous calls with postMessage.

Customization ability – Can we easily allow the user to customize their player?

Both Flash and HTML5 have their advantages and disadvantages. For the time being, flash still provides a better experience on the desktop, but HTML5’s support on new platforms continues to grow.

Photo of Greg Schechter

Greg Schechter


Greg is a fearless web warrior, fighting for browser and website progress. While training at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, he published articles with the Opera Web Standards Curriculum. Subsequently, he went on to battle alongside many different web companies, including Amazon, Yahoo, and Google. His current alliance is with YouTube, where he spearheads the movement for HTML5 video capabilities.

Photo of Phil Harnish

Phil Harnish


Phil has been working on YouTube’s play button for a couple years now. He enjoys continuous deployment and long stretches of behavior driven development. Between the years of keyboard playing cat videos he’s learned a thing or two about the strain scale has on design and usability. If he ever escapes the clutches of a cushy day job, you’ll likely find him hacking on yet another casual-social-game without a business model.

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Picture of Steve Souders
Steve Souders
05/19/2011 8:26am PDT

It’s a great feeling when you know you’re listening to experts. I heard this talk internally at Google – these guys are experts. Anyone dealing with video will want to hear this one.

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