Facebook announced on December 18, 2015 that it made the decision to switch from a Flash-based video player on Facebook to a HTML5-based media player.
The company will use its HTML5 video player "for all Facebook web video surfaces" including videos on news feeds, pages, and in the Facebook embedded video player. Videos embedded directly from other sites, such as YouTube, use the HTML5 video player by default as well on Facebook.
The change won't affect games on the social media website however which means that Facebook users may still require the Flash Player if they play games on the site.
Facebook engineer Daniel Baulig lists three core benefits of the change to HTML5: development velocity, testability and accessibility.
HTML5 video allows Facebook to speed up the development process, not only because there is no need to recompile code, but also as it enables the company to make use of web tools such as jest or WebDriver.
Another benefit of HTML5 video over Flash video is accessibility. Flash is only available for a limited number of platforms, and HTML5 enables Facebook to build a player that is "fully accessible to screen readers and keyboard input", and to leverage accessibility tools on top of that.
Facebook had to overcome challenges on its way to push the HTML5 video player out in the open on the site according to Beurig.
The company needed to get the logging right, to understand how people use the player and how it performs. In addition, it is being used to share data, for instance the view count.
Other challenges included was to take care of browser bugs in regards to HTML5 videos, performance issues in older browsers, and page load time regression.
Facebook noticed metric and user experience improvements already after launching the HTML5 video player. Beurig notes that videos start playing faster on Facebook, that users are reporting fewer bugs, and that interaction with videos has increased as well.
The company is just one of many which switched to HTML5 video already or plans to do so in the near future. It is likely that the switch is accelerated further in 2016 when more and more companies start to migrate away from Flash video to HTML5 video.
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