Here at LongTail, we have a unique opportunity to observe and understand how video is being watched over the Internet. Our popular video player (JW Player) and video hosting platform (Bits on the Run) provide us with insight on video and device viewing habits. With the increasing popularity of tablets, we decided to have a closer look at just how this new class of devices account for video consumption across the Internet.
Even before Adobe's announcement back in November that it would cease supporting Flash on Android devices, it was becoming clear to us at LongTail Video that the JW Player would need to shift its focus on Android devices towards HTML5 mode. We took the first step with the release of the 5.9 player, which now embeds itself in HTML5 mode on all Android devices by default, since our testing has shown that Android is fully capable of playing HTML5 video.
As HTML5 grows its share of the online video market, web video publishers are beginning to look for ways to monetize videos being played outside of the traditional Flash advertising methods. But when someone watches a video in HTML5 mode, what should that experience be like? What's possible, given the current state of the tech?
As we continue to bring HTML5 support in the JW Player closer to parity with Flash mode, we've focused the 5.9 release on a variety of HTML5 stability and user experience updates:
HTML5 is now the default playback mode on Android Devices
In early November, Adobe announced it would stop developing its Flash Player for Android devices. As a result we've decided to focus our energies on optimizing HTML5 support on Android rather on a legacy platform.
Consolidation has begun in the mobile video space. In early November, Adobe announced it would stop developing its Flash Player for mobile devices (read: Android). Going forward, HTML5 will be the only method to play back videos on mobile phones and tablets. This is a big win for Apple, the company that most strongly opposed Flash in the last few years
These days, HD quality video is no longer an option - it is essentially a requirement. On the other hand, there are still quite a few viewers out there that are unable to play high quality video, due to connection or device constraints. A simple way to fix this is by offering an HD toggle in your player. Viewers that want the full experience select the high quality option, while viewers that don't have the capabilities (or interest) select the low quality option.
With the Android and iOS platforms growing like weeds, online publishers are scrambling to mobilize their video players and profit from these additional viewers. Since Apple’s iOS doesn't run Flash, most of these publishers turn to the HTML5 <video> tag for delivering their clips to mobile devices.
While this is a critical first step (better to have your videos play than not), it is also just the start. The mobile user experience (UX) model is vastly different from that of the desktop computer, which means additional work is needed in areas such as interface, streaming and advertising. These UX differences have several implications for video players.
Touch Versus Mouse
One of the most often asked questions when discussing transcoding is How do I support iPads, iPhones, Blackberries and Android phones?. The goal of this blogpost is to remove some of the mystery behind transcoding for devices and present a solution that will work across a wide range of them.
Many popular video formats, like FLV or WMV, will not play on devices like the iPhone. Even videos encoded in MP4 may not play back, resulting in the following screen:
Error playing video on an iPhone