BBC joins war against Flash, launches beta HTML5 iPlayer

Aunty confident you'll ditch third-party plugin

It may not be the definitive decision which propels humanity towards our inevitable end, but in a post on the Beeb's internet blog, James East, the Media Playout Product Manager, stated that his team is now confident they can "achieve the playback quality you'd expect from the BBC without using a third-party plugin."

HTML5 has already been used to deliver video to iOS devices. However, the Beeb has been hesitant to share this rollout to desktop services.

This was not an act of spite, East assures readers, but because Aunty felt "that the consistent experience and efficient media delivery offered by Flash outweighed the benefit of moving to HTML5".

The HTML5 player is currently being tested on:

  • Firefox 41
  • Opera 32
  • Safari on iOS 5 and above
  • BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 and above
  • Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft Edge on Windows 10
  • Google Chrome on all platforms

In the coming months, the BBC will be working on delivering episodes of the Great British Bake Off through MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP), the adaptive bitrate system which it has been trialling for two years.

Alongside this work, Aunty's techie minions will be slaving away on complementary video encoding using the avc3 codec.

Android-device users can begin to run from the sinking Media Player app, as those on KitKat (4.4) or above are able to flee to the HTML5 player beta too.

This means you can again watch videos in-page while browsing the BBC website.

Aunty is also releasing a new player based on the Chocolate Factory's Exoplayer, though places for that are limited to 1,000 users, and have probably already gone. Thanks, Aunty!

Most programmes on iPlayer "should" be available in HTML5 from today, said East. However, archive and "late-delivered" programmes (i.e. almost-live programmes) have not been encoded for MPEG-DASH streaming.

Live programming and radio shows will also be unavailable in HTML5, and during the beta period users (who had opted in with a cookie) will be notified of the issue and allowed to enable the old fashioned player for that session. ®

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