Following a number of announcements and recommendations, in mid-2016 Google Chrome finally began its process of transitioning from Flash to HTML5 and throughout 2017 the switch has accelerated each month. As a result, all websites running video need to use an HTML5 video player and advertisers must use HTML5 compliant tags or users will not see content without manually enabling Flash in Chrome. With this in mind, Google expects to deprecate Flash completely this year, and we’ve already seen a significant shift in that process with the makeover of various sites and major desktop browsers announcing plans to default to HTML5.
While Flash has played an important part in our technological history, helping to deliver countless videos, gaming and advertising content to users worldwide, it’s also been the subject of an ill-performing, unstable and insecure software platform over the years. It’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last victim of innovation, but one of many that have seen a progressive transition over the years whilst failing to keep up with an ever growing and demanding industry – not to mention whose focus has swiftly turned to mobile devices, which famously don’t support Flash very well, if at all.
Across the whole internet, the Chrome browser has a 60% market share, but research will tell you that audiences utilise different browsers based on their needs or wants. For example asking a user to accept the use of Flash will significantly break the experience they have on that page or video, not to mention the ‘extra step’ added to a process that should be kept as seamless as possible, and one that will benefit consumers, advertisers and indeed website owners. That said, this high percentage market share from Chrome cannot be ignored, and with some online companies seeing a higher use of Chrome by their users, they also need to be acutely aware of how the switch to HTML5 can affect things like pre-roll ad markets for publishers, for example, who may rely on monetizing through their video inventory.
Despite repeated warnings by Google of the imminent deprecation of Flash in Chrome, the industry has been slow to respond and is now feeling the pressure to switch as the amount of available flash inventory is rapidly decreasing. This transition is happening now and over the next few months, Flash video inventory will simply disappear within Chrome.
It’s difficult to predict exactly how this will affect the market and indeed the advertisers who hold all the monopoly money, but timings and availability of HTML5 based inventory will likely be high on the agenda. Get your launch timings wrong as a publisher and you risk jumping the gun. Arrive late to the party and you will have missed a mountain of an opportunity. Simply put, timing is essential and both publishers and advertisers will mostly benefit by working together.
That hurdle aside, technical challenges and their solutions also play an important part in the process. Despite this and all that goes with it, however, there is further room for growth, sustainability and improved services. It may be true that costs will rise with the implementation of new solutions, site overhauls and so on, but a greater, more refined user and advertiser experience is what ultimately lies on the horizon for our industry.
As ever is the case, the transition to HTML5 video cannot be achieved by a single party. The connected nature of the video advertising ecosystem means all parties need to push for faster support of HTML5 as failure to do so will result in a loss of inventory for advertisers and decreasing revenues for publishers.