YouTube backing gives Flash timely relief

Adobe's Flash has taken a bit of a kicking as of late. First there was Steve Jobs' public and highly critical open letter regarding the format. And then it fell out of favour with two of the leading online porn establishments, YouPorn and Digital Playground, who are switching to HTML5.

Now if you think the porn industry isn't that important, then consider the role that it had in the downfall of Betamax in the video format war of the 1980s.

So, imagine the relief at Adobe HQ now that YouTube has come out and publicly backed the format. If YouTube was to completely drop Flash then it could have been curtains.

YouTube states that Flash is still a vital part of its system, even though they have begun experimenting with the HTML tag.

On its blog, John Harding, YouTube's software engineer said:

"We’re very happy to see such active and enthusiastic discussion about evolving web standards - YouTube is dependent on browser enhancement in order for us to improve the video experience for our users. While HTML5’s video support enables us to bring most of the content and features of YouTube to computers and other devices that don’t support Flash Player, it does not yet meet all of our needs. Today, Adobe Flash provides the best platform for YouTube’s video distribution requirements, which is why our primary video player is built with it".

Harding points out that HTML5 has a "critical role" to play in YouTube's future but insists that the service still needs Flash for certain functions including the security of embedded videos, full screen HD content and direct uploading from webcams.

It's interesting that Google seems to be publicly backing Flash, not only with this YouTube announcement, but also by including Flash 10.1 support in its latest Android update

Is it doing it to get on Apple's nerves? Or does it genuinely believe that a plug-in reliant format can survive on the web going forward?

When you consider the involvement of the big G in the WebM project (which includes the introduction of the V8 open source video codec that Google hopes will compete with H.264 to become the codec of choice for the HTML5 standard) it may well be the former. Only time will tell.

Let us know what you think about the future of online video using the comments below.