Introducing the JW Player for Flash and HTML5

Update: JW7 is now available. Check it out here.

For several years, the JW Player has been a leader in the web video world.  Until recently, this has almost entirely meant Flash video.  However, with the major browser vendors all committing to bringing video rendering capabilities directly into the browser, the landscape has begun to shift.  Additionally, the absence of Flash on certain critical platforms, such as the iOS devices, is pushing many web video publishers to search for alternatives.

Is HTML5 the Answer to All of Our Problems?

It certainly addresses some major points:

  • Standards Compliance – with the HTML5 <video> standard, publishers can simplify their video embedding, with the knowledge that their HTML will validate in all modern browsers.  Neither the <object> nor <embed> tags, which are used to embed Flash, have universally accepted standards.
  • Open Web – Browsers are beginning to solidify support for open video standards, such as WebM and Ogg Theora.  Firefox, Chrome and Opera have all committed to delivering video content in royalty-free and open-source video formats.
  • Device Variety – Devices with embedded video support, such as Apple and Android mobile devices, do not always have the capability to render Flash video.  The HTML5 <video> element allows the browsers on these devices to render video using cross-platform markup.

Why Not Move Everything Over to the <video> Tag?

There are still some issues that get in the way.  First, as anyone who has played around with HTML5 video can attest, there’s no single video format that is supported by all of the browsers, so videos must be encoded into multiple formats.  Second, with the <video> tag still in its infancy, browsers haven’t yet standardized their implementations of the JavaScript APIs that support it.  Finally, a good percentage of desktop browsers (Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8 make up 45% or more of the browser market) don’t support HTML5 <video> at all, requiring some sort of fallback mechanism.

This is Where Flash Comes Back into Play

Flash provides a uniform environment for web video, consistent across all desktop browsers (it has a 97% adoption rate) and even some mobile devices.  It offers a variety of advanced video delivery mechanisms, including bandwidth-saving streaming technology, live streaming, adaptive bitrate switching, and content security features.  And even if you have decided that you don’t need all that and will make the move to HTML5 <video>, you are still going to have to turn to Flash in order to provide a seamless experience for users not equipped with the latest browsers.

Several months ago, we began thinking of ways we could make things easier for publishers to get up and running with HTML5 video, so we released the JW Player for HTML5 Beta, which included a failover to Flash.  While this was useful for very simple configurations, we felt that it didn’t go far enough in terms of end-to-end integration with the Flash version of the JW Player.  Ultimately, we realized that it wasn’t two separate players we needed; instead, we should combine both of them into a single video player capable of rendering in both Flash and HTML5.  The result – the JW Player for Flash and HTML5.  Read the Official Press Release here.  Or, learn more about the enhancements and limitations of HTML5 Support in the JW Player.

This Integration is Made Possible by Some Important New Features:

  • Write-once embed code: A new JavaScript embedder allows you to write a single piece of embed code to embed in either Flash or HTML5 mode, depending on the configuration.  If the browser doesn’t support the configured mode, the player will automatically fail over.  Refer to the JW Embedder Section of our Supported Player Embed Methods Guide, for detailed instructions and live demos.
  • Updated JavaScript API: Also included with this release is an updated JavaScript API, which enables you to easily write scripts to interact with the player, no matter which mode it’s currently running in.  Read More.

Last, this release introduces a number of improvements to the Flash playback mode, including automated RTMP/RTMPT failover.   Please take a look at the release notes for the details. You can read more about the JW Player for Flash and HTML5 here and Download it here.

We are always interested in hearing your feedback on ways to maintain the JW Player as the best video player on the web.  Post a comment below, or if you need help getting started, please visit our support forums.