It seems that WebM captured the interest of many that were looking for a potential escape from the HTML5 video deadlock (h264 or theora); Google managed to create a potentially suitable alternative, that seems to be relatively risk-free in terms of patents, while providing reasonable overall quality (especially for the HD video range; at lower bitrate and resolution still needs substantial work). This reignited the flash/html5 war, spurred by Apple and its ban of everything Flash or Flash-like. I have read lots of comments ranging from the “flash will be with us forever” to “flash is already dead”. The dichotomy presented is false, for several reasons; I will try to highlight a few of the comments I received, along with my thoughts:
Flash player is on 98% of the internet-connected devices. While this may be true (I doubt it, as most smartphones are actually internet-connected, and Flash does not work there, or is such a sad joke that it should be left for when the kids are asleep), it does not work on the majority of new internet devices, that are either pads, ARM-based devices or systems where Flash has not a good enough performance. Google recently mentioned that they activate 100000 Android devices per day, Apple is more or less in the same range, and there is still no Flash there (t will be – but I still suspect that the experience will not be that good to make it usable). The Flash player is still slow and complex, and unless the technology changes radically, I suspect that it will be still quite slow (unless for single-window, tailored small games as Kongregate demonstrated recently).
Video is important, and H264 is the best thing that we have. H264 is a very good standard, and properly implemented (as an example, within the x264 encoder) is really among the state of the art. But – a small and unscientific comparison I performed yesterday seem to indicate that actually WebM is fast and simple, as previous claim by On2 indicated. The simplicity of the transforms and the linear structure should lend well to an embedded implementation, that is actually just a specialized coding on a collection of onboard DSPs.
The reality is that most content providers are requiring a form of DRM – be it effective or not – because this way they have a legal way to ask damages, using the DMCA or similar legislation that were introduced around the world. Yes, most current DRM schemes are not designed to be effective, but to provide a legal instrument. That’s why some video vendors insist that HTML5 is not suited for video distribution: because it does not have a protection form, that (even if easily avoidable) provides a tool to ask for damages and external authority control. I am quite confident that sooner or later, someone will introduce a DRM option to provide optional content protection; at that point, Flash or Silverlight will provide no substantial technical or business advantage, and will be on the contrary disadvantages, especially in up-and-coming platforms.