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Chrome Pauses Flash: Time to Switch to a Next Generation HTML5 Player

Chrome Pauses Flash: Time to Switch to a Next Generation HTML5 Player

Google is changing the way that its new Chrome desktop browser displays Flash content. Today Chrome will pause Flash-based content that it considers either advertising or peripheral to the main page. For video, that means users will now have to manually click on video players smaller than 400x300 pixels to enable playback instead of having them play automatically.

Accelerating Flash’s Obsolescence

Google’s action is the latest step in the industry’s accelerating move away from reliance on the venerable Flash platform in the web technology stack. The countdown to Flash’s obsolescence began in 2010, when Apple declared that the iPhone would not support Flash. Since then, Apple, Google, and others have rightfully criticized Flash for being a security risk, a CPU and battery drain, and generally a “closed” part of the web system that should be removed. Mobile devices already exclude Flash, and increasingly desktop browsers make it harder and harder to use the Adobe technology. Apple’s Safari now has a power-saving mode that behaves similarly to the new Chrome browser, and a few weeks ago Firefox disabled Flash until a security fix was released by Adobe. The change in Chrome is yet another restriction on Flash, and more are likely to come in Chrome and other browsers.

Brightcove Delivers the Next Generation of HTML5 Players

Anticipating this evolution, Brightcove architected its new generation of player as an HTML5 platform that provides robust, full-featured video playback independent of Flash. The Brightcove Player is HTML5-first and is designed specifically to work in environments where Flash is disabled or unavailable. It does not require Flash to play MP4 videos, to render its controls, to load plugins, or to send events to analytics systems. The Brightcove Player delivers the same high-quality playback experience on both mobile and desktop browsers - it’s responsive, you can style it in CSS, and it has exactly the same JavaScript API for plugins and events no matter what browser it’s running on.

While the Brightcove Player does not require Flash, it supports legacy Flash content with two optional features that can use Flash if it is available. The first option can display Flash-based ads using the VPAID standard, which is still a widely used format for advertising content. The second option supports HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) video on platforms that do not natively play HLS video. (Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge browsers both support HLS video natively.) Today, we provide HLS playback using the Flash runtime - but not for long. Later this month, we will be releasing a new version of HLS playback for Chrome that does not use Flash at all, and instead uses Chrome’s new Media Source Extensions (MSE) API (which we already support for playback of encrypted MPEG-DASH content). With this upcoming change, the new Brightcove Player will be the only mainstream, full-featured, commercially available video player capable of a pure HTML5 presentation including HLS playback and ad integration.

Brightcove Player Gives Publishers a Choice with Ads

Just as standard HTML5 delivery is the future of all video content, we believe that it is also the future of video-based pre-roll and mid-roll advertising. Amazon, for example, has announced that it will no longer accept Flash-based ads for their properties, and many others will surely follow suit. That said, by some counts more than half of video ad content today still requires Flash to be displayed. This volume means that shutting off Flash can have a negative effect on ad fill rates and appropriate ad targeting, which can result in lower CPM payments to publishers. So, today there is still value and incentive for some publishers to continue to allow Flash-based ads to play.

The Brightcove Player gives publishers a choice about whether or not to use Flash-based ads. With the new Brightcove Player, that choice can be made with an easy configuration option for both the DoubleClick IMA and FreeWheel advertising plugins. For now, Flash is still the default for desktop ads since the majority of ads are still provided by ad servers in Flash, but as this balance shifts, we’ll be changing the player’s default.

Now Is a Great Time to Switch

This change in Chrome’s behavior may seem minor to some.  But make no mistake - it’s yet another step toward the retirement of Flash. The Brightcove Player is designed from the ground up to use the native browser technologies that are replacing Flash (such as JavaScript and CSS), and implements the latest HTML5 standards for video. Brightcove is leading the way with a pure HTML5 HLS implementation and the option to disable Flash for ads and utilize HTML5 today. Why not give it a try?

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