Google Chrome and Flash

Flash support in Google Chrome under fire

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As from 6 December 2016, with the launch of Google Chrome 55, enabling the Flash plugin will become optional and HTML5 the default. Users will have the choice to decline using Flash. As this implies a serious impact for website owners using RTMP and HLS adaptive streaming videos and audios, we show you the possible options to ensure you can keep delivering video and audio to your audience.

But first, to make clear what is going on, here is an excerpt from what Google says about the subject:

Adobe Flash Player played a pivotal role in the adoption of video, gaming and animation on the web. Today, sites typically use technologies like HTML5, giving you improved security, reduced power consumption and faster page load times. Going forward, Chrome will de-emphasize Flash in favor of HTML5.
Full article: https://blog.google/products/chrome/flash-and-chrome/

With de-emphasize they actually mean that in the long run, they want to get rid of Flash but it will happen gradually.
OK, so what do we need do to prevent problems in December? Below an overview of the impact this may have depending on your situation:

What happens to Progressive download?

Not much, actually.  If you use this method, it remains working as long as the player or embedding code has either a fallback method to HTML5 or is already HTLM5 compliant. But videos in FLV format need to be converted to mp4, since FLV is Flash native.

What happens to RTMP streaming?

So far, the future of RTMP streaming was rather stable notwithstanding the wish of some big players on the market to get rid of the protocol because it requires Flash, which is not suitable for mobile devices.
With the release of Chrome 55 on the 6th of December, this will change because the audience can be roughly divided in 3 groups:

  1. Those who hate Flash > will certainly disable the Flash option
  2. Non-technical users > a portion of users will probably decline the Flash option as they are reluctant to enable something they do not understand.
  3. Technical users who don’t mind using Flash.

It is hard to figure out at this time of writing what the total percentage of category 1 and 2 will be, but it is clear that this will have an impact on your website. Of course, you can require users to turn on Flash as a prerequisite to view your rich media, just as you can require to enable javascript.
However, in the foreseeable future, this protocol is not going to last, because Google will monitor the decline of Flash and they may speed up the process to kill it off when they notice that their policy is successful.
So far, most players based on Flash have an HTML5 fallback, so in most cases, the worst that can happen is that the player switches to progressive download, on the conditions that you provided an html5 fallback link.
However, if you use RTMP streaming to protect your videos and audios from downloading (which is too easy with progressive download) you may want to switch HLS adaptive streaming.

What happens to HLS adaptive streaming?

Although HLS adaptive streaming uses Flash also, there are video players that found a way to play it via html5, where-under JW Player (version 7.3 and higher). This means that HLS adaptive streaming is a good replacement for RTMP streaming, although we can’t look further than 5 years ahead (which is like an age in IT-country).
Technically, HLS adaptive streaming is more complex than RTMP streaming, but Amazon Web Services (AWS) makes it a little easier for you.
Have a look at the following tutorial to get an idea what this involves:
HLS adaptive streaming tutorials with CloudFront and JW Player

If you don’t want to fiddle with the technical details of HLS, you can always rent a video service like Wowza, Brightcove and others but the cost will go up considerably, compared with AWS. In fact, many video services use AWS and charge from 20% up to 30% on top of the bandwidth fees.

Which players support HLS adaptive streaming in HTML5 mode?

There are various players that can show HLS adaptive streaming in HTML5 mode, the most prominent are:

  • JW Player
  • FlowPlayer
  • Video.js

JW Player supports HLS adaptive streaming with HTML5 and it is to my mind still the best industry standard around, but the premium license fee to use HLS is quite high, at this time of writing $299 per year.

FlowPlayer is good as well and it has a one-time fee of $99 at this time of writing.

Video.js supports HLS adaptive streaming with HTML5 but you have to install a plugin, which involves installing many files and setup isn’t that easy.

All three have a plugin for WordPress to make publishing a little easier.

What is the impact for current JW Player users?

If you use JW Player for RTMP streaming and you want to switch to HLS adaptive streaming, you need to buy the premium license. It is not possible to use this protocol with the free player. In fact, most industry standard players will require a paid license, including FlowPlayer.

Secondly, you should update to the latest version because HLS adaptive streaming can also play in HTLM5 mode from version 7.4 and higher. JW Player 6 will become obsolete with regard to HLS adaptive streaming as it still requires Flash. You may also have to change ‘primary‘ to ‘html5‘ if it was set to: ‘primary’:’flash’;
In June 2017, the primary setting will be deprecated and the player will default to html5.
See also this blog article by JW Player for more information on required changes: https://www.jwplayer.com/blog/deprecation-flash/

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