What is the difference: HTML5 Video vs Flash?

HTML5 and Flash are two technologies that are getting compared constantly.

Some say comparing HTML5 vs Flash is like comparing apples and oranges. HTML came up with their newest specification called HTML5 a few years ago. HTML5 natively supports on demand and live video streaming sources. Adobe Flash, on the other hand, has been the only way to let rich audio and video content run on the web for more than a decade. In this blog, we will compare and contrast HTML5 video vs Flash.

Compatibility and the Mobile Space

HTML5 Video vs FlashThe HTML5 technology comes from the open source sector of HTML. It has some advantages over Flash without any doubt. The biggest is in the mobile space as device providers have opted for HTML5 as the future. The drive forcing behind this is that HTML5 video content is better on battery life in contrast to Flash.  This includes battery life for smartphones, tablets and laptops. Yossi Oren, in his blog about HTML5 video comparison to Flash, backed this up through tests finding that Flash video resulted in a “17% rise in current draw (and a corresponding reduction in battery life) on the laptop, and a 12% rise on the tablet”.

The difference in compatibility is not just in the mobile space but also the desktop world as well. Flash is known for having many different versions of the Flash player out there. Trying to find a solution to support older Flash technology while still advancing the format is part of the reason they conceded toward HTML5 as the future. This plagues both sides of the coin, both legacy support and also new Flash users.

According to this article from Elstel, Videos for the Web with HTML5-an introduction, “Many different versions of the Adobe Flash Player make life hard for the user as newly converted videos do not run on elder Flash versions. Adobe Flash may often be installed but not in the right version which is often overlooked by web admins.”

Current HTML5 Support

That said, not everything is rosy for HTML5. Being a new technology, it’s still not universally supported. The Opera browser still does not have support for it. Versions of Mozilla Firefox before Update 21 are not compatible as well. The largest slice of this market, though, are versions of Internet Explorer. Anything before version 9 of Internet Explorer does not support HTML5 video. The key markets here are Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8. While this is an aging and declining portion of one’s total audience, they are still numerous. This is part of the reason that Flash is still very popular today. Chris Casale, in his article HTML5 vs. Flash – What do you need to know? Part 1 , states:

  • 75% of web videos are viewed using Flash (YouTube was solely Flash until adding HTML5 video playback in 2011)
  • 98% of enterprises rely on the Flash Player and more than 3 million developers use Flash technology
  • 85% of the most-visited websites use Flash in one form or other

There are other drawbacks and positives to both technologies as well, as stated in the diagram below:

Requires a “player” to be installedNoYes
Runs on mobile devicesYesSelective
Running speed on different platformsHighSlow
Supported by iOSYesNo
Is a mature technologyNoYes
Different experience based on the browserYesNo
Offline storageDependsUsing Local Shared Objects to store AMF-formatted data


HTML5 video is the future: developers are working on it everyday to make it a better product and hands down it will be able to beat Flash soon enough. However, the day to abandon Flash is still down the road. Until then, in an ideal situation, you find a provider like DaCast that serves video to both markets, from the same embed player without having to choose. Having to choose between mobile support and widespread support to all desktops should not have to be an option.

By Suprita Kochhar. Connect with me on Google+ at +Suprita Kochar