Within two years, the number of hours people spend viewing online video will easily surpass the time they spend watching television. There's no doubt that online video has enjoyed stratospheric growth of late, but despite that success, the technical underpinning by which video is delivered into your browser hasn't really developed much since the 1990s. Back then, watching a video on the Web meant squinting at a postage stamp-sized low-res player with very jerky video.
Nick Wilson is CTO at Break Media, an entertainment community for men. He's spent the last two decades building products that leverage digital content and is a recognized innovator in the digital entertainment field. He's excited about Break.com being one of the first HTML5-enabled video sites.
Fast forward ahead to 2004, when YouTube and casual gaming sites burst onto the scene and we finally had killer applications that meant one thing: To experience the new wonders of the Web, one had no choice but to download Adobe's Flash browser plugin. After all, the two most popular browsers, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox (collectively with 80% market share), still have no native way to play a video or animation without installing Flash.
Every transitionary technology reaches a peak (98% adoption is a pretty good peak!) and eventually declines as newer developer-friendly technologies with better standards compliance take hold. Of course, with Flash being so ubiquitous on desktops and laptops it will be years before developers ditch it all together. But the desktop isn't where the next battle for video will be fought - rather it will be the new breed of platform and mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and set-top boxes - all of which have limited processing power and little to no ability for a user to download and install plugins like Flash.
The arrival of the iPad unquestionably puts the fate of online video - and the means by which it is distributed - center-stage. It's unsurprising that Apple's newest baby, the iPad, would follow in the footsteps of its older sibling, the iPhone, by relying on the browser to handle video rather than allowing a Flash plugin. But there's one critical difference: The iPad allows an embedded video playback experience, so the video can appear within a normal Web page without having to go full-screen as with the iPhone.
And what about the online video economy, with its Flash-based pre-roll videos and overlay advertising units? Well, with some clever coding they can work just fine on the iPad, too. Transcoding video ads into H.264 is a straightforward process, and ad units such as a "video bug" (those pop-up messages that show at the bottom of a video) can easily be reprogrammed to work in HTML5. When we combine the in-video units like preroll and video bug along with non-Flash IAB-standard ad units, there are plenty of opportunities to monetize a video view impression.
So the iPad without Flash, rather than presenting a problem for online video, presents a great opportunity to modernize the video playback experience, supporting the unique and immersive user experience that the iPhone started and the iPad will continue and enhance.