Another tech article written without the tech…

I always find that when someone makes some sort of sweeping statement they should at least be able to support their statement with enough technical reasons to make a convincing argument. Usually TNW gets it right but on this one the writer failed pretty miserably.

http://thenextweb.com/dd/2014/04/19/rip-flash-html5-will-take-video-web-year/

First off let’s admit that flash is doing its job with video pretty well which is why it hasn’t died on the desktop as quick as everyone claimed it would. For reliable, secure and performant desktop streaming video – flash is still alive and well and won’t die in 2014. It will die only when there is a satisfactory replacement for it. At the moment there is not.

With OSMF framework players and all the plugin work going on – flash is still powering most of the world’s steaming video and is doing a fine job of it. Flash is not perfect and many would love to replace it, including me, but there is not a suitable production replacement at this time.

Is 2014 the year for flash to die. Not likely.

All this aside it usually helps to understand the tech more and to correctly understand what is keeping flash from dying and what might take its place? Also it is important not to lump mobile and desktop into the same bucket and pretend it’s all the same thing – cause it is not.

For starters mobile was never going to use flash but at the same time mobile is not using HTML 5 as a replacement for it either. Most premium mobile video apps are using native code and players – not HTML 5 anyway. I still feel native offers the better user experience and better streaming but people can always argue otherwise.

However lets cut to the chase as to why desktop is still dominated by flash and why mobile is dominated by native video players – it’s for one simple reason and one the author of the article didn’t even talk about which is security. I will delve into this further but for the moment I will use the term security versus DRM cause in my opinion they are not the same thing. Currently HTML 5 has no cross browser standard for implementing secure streams so that whatever is streamed is not easily stolen. Until this is fixed flash won’t die and native code will trump HTML 5.

I think the most promising work is around MPEG-DASH + CENC common encryption scheme. Dash is a new way of doing streaming media – kind of a better form of apple’s HLS and the CENC work is to come up with a cross browser of way of encrypting it. If you talk to folks in the biz – this and the new h265 stuff are getting the most attention but none of them would promise you a 2014 delivery date. Given that, it is ludicrous to purport that flash will die in 2014 since the replacement for it is not ready.

Now that we have covered that flash is not dead yet it is worth spending some time on the whole DRM debate cause I think it is misunderstood at times. DRM to me is usually associated with the notion of buying some content like a cd or a DVD and being prevented by tech from copying it or watching it wherever you want. I think if you have bought something you should be able to copy or watch where you want but you shouldn’t be able to sell it again, stream it for profit or make copies for others who might sell it. So in my opinion if you buy it and you want to put it online for others to pirate it then it is wrong and if tech can help prevent that it should. Problem is that same tech can sometimes prevent the person who bought it from using it the way they want. That is the bad part about DRM but that aside this is different from security.

Security in my opinion is the tech to prevent someone from stealing it who didn’t pay for it. It’s that simple. Meaning if you pay for a streaming service then you should be able to watch it on all the devices that service offers cause you paid to do so. However let’s say you want to make a copy of the movie to store it for later or to give to a friend. If the service does not offer that then in my mind the user doesn’t get that but if the service never purported to offer it then the user has to live with those parameters. Some would say the user should be able to then take the movie to do with it how they please but to me that is the stealing part. Streaming services are not selling movies but selling the ability to watch where the service is offered. Normally this is why subscription services are cheaper per month than buying movies.

Others would argue that anything on a screen can be stolen so why bother trying to protect it but that is an easy one to answer. If you are an independent film maker and you debut something on a streaming service you are hoping that, although it is never 100 percent, that the service is not an easy source for people to steal the content. Otherwise the movie is better off in the theaters versus streaming. Any company who is in the business of streaming doesn’t want to lose this relationship with the content owners so they try to ensure they can offer a safe platform that does not contribute to the overall piracy problem.

So companies in the business of streaming have to take security seriously and in most cases security is not the same as DRM because the goal is to not make it hard on people who pay but to prevent those who don’t want to pay from petty theft. I personally think stealing streams is theft and is no different from stealing a book or a meal. Taking something you don’t want to pay for doesn’t look any different to me for a physical item or a digital item. It’s theft. Pay for it. If you don’t want to pay for it then you can’t have it.

So for the moment flash offers streaming companies a safer place to stream movies than HTML 5 does. Yes it will change but not this year.

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