How HTML5 solves the video player riddle for OTT platforms in web browsers

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How HTML5 solves the video player riddle for OTT platforms in web browsers

The journey of web media files began due to the continuing advancement of technology and the burgeoning need of video playback online. From the days when web servers first started hosting media files to this day when the OTT sector has become a significant contributor of large-scale global bandwidth consumption, the web video player has taken myriad forms.

The advent of the native HTML5 player in browsers for streaming digital content without the use of third-party media plugins – such as Adobe Flash Player, Java, QuickTime Player, and Microsoft Silverlight – killed any scope for any further advancement of Flash. The dynamic HTML5 video streaming protocol, which is continuously evolving, promotes interactivity and enhancement of the appearance of web pages. It ensures that the users are engaged in a dynamic viewer experience, and is compatible with almost all devices and firewalls.

Beginning with FutureSplash

In 1995, the California-based software development company FutureWave Software developed a web animation tool called FutureSplash. This tool, with the help of an animator, embedded animations on the web, which could be run on a viewer. FlashSpace Viewer was an amalgamation of Internet Explorer and Netscape. The player was used to run animations on the web with speed and small file sizes. Customers had to download the player to view animations on their browsers. In 1996, the companies like Microsoft and Macromedia roped in FutureSplash to provide a digital viewing experience to their web users. In fact, later the same year, Macromedia bought FutureSplash and released it as Macromedia Flash.

Evolution and Decline of Flash

Flash, as a pioneer in the digital world, completely changed the viewing experience of users. Customers did not desire plain and simple animations anymore. With Flash, developers were able to provide interactive experiences to the users. It kept evolving and soon its omnipresence could be felt throughout the digital world. It was used fervently for playing media files on the desktop. It also made the use of other third-party plugins redundant. YouTube made Flash real popular when it started using it for its video content. Soon, Apple started using Flash for its own products.

With the introduction of version 6 of Flash, the entire game changed. Complete video support was added to it. Soon, Adobe took over Macromedia and as a consequence, Flash. Issues did arise with Flash. Many times there was difficulty in reading content by search engines. The issue of uploading the content upfront led the speed to slow down considerably. And there was always an issue of its compatibility on different browsers.

Later, with the arrival of smartphones, the popularity of Flash started declining. The then Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world, and Flash was declared as obsolete. Apple does not allow Flash on iPhones and iPads. Jobs stated in a public letter in 2010 that Flash was not only closed and proprietary, but it also had major technical drawbacks. Also, it did not support touch-based devices, so the Flash websites would be required to be rewritten. Flash videos require an older generation decoder run in software, not implemented in mobile chips. Jobs argued that new open standards like HTML5 would win on both mobile devices and desktops. (“Thoughts on Flash”:  https://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash.)
Soon, YouTube also backed out from using Flash. It too switched to the more versatile HTML5. Then, Google swapped Flash with the HTML5 tool. After a great rise, Flash saw a rapid decline in the digital world and is now considered outdated.

Rise of HTML5 Player

HTML5 is a markup language which presents audio and video content on the web. It is the latest version of HTML. It is not restricted to perform on any one device and is reliable and efficient in developing interactive and dynamic digital content. It has helped decrease the page loading time of websites and reduced power consumption of devices. HTML5 is open source and forever evolving.

HTML5 video streaming is able to play with multimedia content with the help of audio and video HTML tags. It helps in customization and display of digital content. With the help of HTML5 it is now possible for broadcasters to upload high definition video content in a secure manner. With this, websites are able to directly stream content to viewers. The tags help direct the protocol on what to do with the tagged content and how to present it.

The HTML5 video player provides solutions for directly streaming videos from a website. With it, the streaming process has been streamlined, which has become more efficient for both users and broadcasters. Also, HTML5 videos can be streamed on all types of devices, be they mobile or traditional PCs. With the advent of over-the-top (OTT), online advertising and sponsored videos have risen in popularity and usage. This has made it lucrative for the OTT platforms, as it has led to an increase in the revenue received by them. The demand for live video streaming has been on a rise and is a win-win for both viewers and broadcasters. Online video streams are broadcast via HTTP live streaming, also known as, HLS streaming protocol, developed by Apple. It supports media players,browsers, mobile devices, and streaming media servers. It adjusts itself according to the user’s device capabilities. Viewers are able to view and modify them according to their requirements and specifications free of cost. Both, HTML5 and HLS streaming protocols are safe to use, extremely reliable, and faster than Flash.

The HLS protocol cuts MP4 video content into short portions, which the HTTP server stores and delivers to viewers on their respective devices. With the help of the protocol, an HTML5 video player is able to detect the network conditions of the user’s device and accordingly display the appropriate quality video. So, viewers can opt for the most suitable option according to their specific bandwidth at any given time. In addition, HLS is compatible with almost all devices and firewalls, which makes it ideal for the viewers. No doubt that the HLS protocol has become robust and dynamic approach for streaming media content over HTML5 video players. Websites use HTML5 with native HTTP to stream media content directly to viewers.

Another noteworthy streaming protocol to enter the digital market is dynamic adaptive streaming called MPEG-DASH. It is also an adaptive bitrate video method. It too has all the best features, including being codec agnostic. But, its one major shortfall is that it is not supported by the Safari browser, which is incorporated in all Apple devices. Nevertheless, as technology keeps evolving, the robust HTML5 video streaming protocol promotes enhancement of web pages and highly engages users by providing them a dynamic viewer experience.

OTT platforms are quite popular on mobile devices and smart TVs, where the user generally does not have to choose between different players of video decryption methods to play streaming content offered by OTT platforms. However, a large percentage of OTT subscribers still access video streams in their web browsers. This is where the HTML5 has settled the player debate and made viewing experience seamless.

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