Hulu today rolled out a number of welcome improvements to its already great video streaming service. Some of the tweaks include a bigger playback screen, more on-point content recommendations, and adaptive bitrate streaming.
In a blog post (since removed) outlining some of Hulu’s new features, Hulu VP Eugene Wei took some time to explain why Hulu has no plans of abandoning Flash anytime soon in favor of HTML 5. In short, HTML 5 simply isn’t mature enough to fully support all of the interests of Hulu, its advertisers, and more importantly, its customers.
When it comes to technology, our only guiding principle is to best serve the needs of all of our key customers: our viewers, our content partners who license programs to us, our advertisers, and each other. We continue to monitor developments on HTML5, but as of now it doesn’t yet meet all of our customers’ needs. Our player doesn’t just simply stream video, it must also secure the content, handle reporting for our advertisers, render the video using a high performance codec to ensure premium visual quality, communicate back with the server to determine how long to buffer and what bitrate to stream, and dozens of other things that aren’t necessarily visible to the end user. Not all video sites have these needs, but for our business these are all important and often contractual requirements.
That’s not to say these features won’t be added to HTML5 in the future (or be easier to implement). Technology is a fast-moving space and we’re constantly evaluating which tools will best allow us to fulfill our mission for as many of our customers as possible.
It remains unclear why the blog post was removed, but Wei’s post adds an interesting twit to the incessant rumors regarding a Hulu app hitting the iPad sometime soon. As a point of interest, all of Hulu’s videos are already encoded in H.264 so the company wouldn’t have to bother re-encoding its vast library of content – but for the reasons outlined above, it appears that Flash will remain Hulu’s go-to technology for the time being.
Technical comparisons between Flash and HTML 5 aside, there are also licensing issues (i.e streaming content to mobile devices) at play that may prevent Hulu from releasing an iPad app as soon as it would like.