The Video Streaming Format War Heats Up

Apple’s recently released iPad has brought video streaming formats to the forefront. Why? Because it doesn’t recognize Flash.

It wasn’t that big a deal when the iPhone shunned Flash, but when the iPad, suitable for Internet browsing, didn’t include Flash it meant that its users would have a limited view of the web.

NOTE: YouTube uses Flash video. Apple added an app that allows YouTube videos.

First, a little background on video streaming. True video streaming requires server software that handles the stream. It monitors the connection speed between the server and the viewer and matches the download speed to the connection speed.

Most web video uses progressive download. That’s where a portion of the video is downloaded and the rest downloads as it’s being viewed. The initial wait time (buffer) and streaming rate are built into the video.

The advantage of progressive downloads are its simplicity and ability to run from any web site. The disadvantage is people with slow connections having to wait during viewing for the video download to catch up and people with fast connections not receiving the optimal experience.

The Video Streaming Battle Begins…

The three main types of video on the web are Flash (Adobe), Silverlight (Microsoft) and QuickTime (Apple). In order for your web browser to play a video (within the browser, not download it to a player on your computer) it needs an appropriate plugin.

Flash has long dominated web video because of its interactivity, ease of use and wide acceptance (Adobe claims 98% of browsers have the Flash plugin).

A few years ago Microsoft came out with Silverlight to compete with Flash. Previously, its .wmv format really needed server software to stream properly. Microsoft has developed tools and editors to add interactivity and progressive download ability.

Apple QuickTime prides itself on better video quality, but the file sizes are much larger in my experience and need faster connection speeds for a good viewer experience.

While many talk about Microsoft’s arrogance, Apple has always tried to control its ‘channel’. It’s mobile devices require the use of iTunes and Apple Apps, both of which it controls. Can it really expect to act as if Flash doesn’t exist on the web to the detriment of its users?

One possible solution on the horizon is an upgrade to the HTML language called HTML5. It promises to stream audio and video without the need for a browser plugin.  But it has to be the standard across all browsers and it’s hard to catch up to the continually advancing technology of the plugins.

Our recommendation? Everything I’ve read says that Flash will be around for a long time to come and we will continue to use it for web video.

If your business has a site especially designed for mobile devices, like, then video should be in the .m4v format.

Further Reading:

You can’t get a rich web experience without Flash

HTML vs. Flash: Can a turf war be avoided?

No Flash on Your iPhone? How About Silverlight, Instead?