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Video’s Watershed Moment: The Death of Flash and Why HTML5 VPAID Is Now a Must

Vincent Flood  21 June, 2016

Jaime SingsonWhile Flash was once the Internet’s video solution of choice, the technology has become something of a burden.  It’s uses up a lot of resources and is also vulnerable to cyberattacks. Later this year Google’s Chrome browser will stop supporting it, which is going to have a major impact on how the video advertising is delivered online. Here Jaime Singson, Director of Product Marketing at Sizmek, explains what the industry needs to do to prepare over the coming months.

Google announced that it would “minimize use of Adobe’s Flash Player in its Chrome Web browser by the end of the year by “turning off its default status”. What’s this mean for advertisers? That it’s a watershed moment for the industry in terms of moving from Flash-based video to HTML5 VPAID-based video.

Finally, we will have a world of unified HTML5-based video players stretching across desktop, mobile, and tablets—and possibly, sometime in the future, to other connected devices. Let’s look at what Chrome’s Flash decisions really means for you and where we as an industry are with HTML5 VPAID right now.

A Quick Recap on Chrome’s Approach to Phasing Out Flash

Last year, Chrome started pausing nonessential Flash content. This move actually didn’t impact Flash video, which is user initiated and far from nonessential. However, Google’s more recent announcement does impact Flash video in a major way: Chrome announced that they will automatically allow HTML5 video media player to default over a Flash version by the end of 2016.

Chrome will still bundle Flash video software as part of Chrome, but by year’s end, sites that require Flash video players that are not included on Chrome’s whitelist (only the top 10 domains using Flash) will have a prompt at the top of the page giving them the option to run Flash on that site. Users will have to “click” to make a Flash video player work.

Soon, even the top 10 domains with Flash video players won’t be safe to use—Google plans to phase out its whitelist after a year. News outlets predict that Flash video will be dead by 2018.

The Current State of VPAID and Interactive Video

Somewhat shockingly given the near universal change to HTML5 elsewhere, the majority of VPAID inventory out in the market remains Flash-based. Estimates vary from 90% to up to 99% in many markets. As of Q1 2016, among interactive video executions that run through Sizmek globally, about 98% are still Flash-based, and only 2% are HTML5 VPAID. Clearly, adoption of HTML5 VPAID video still has a long way to go, and it’s going to happen quickly given Chrome’s announcement.

Interestingly enough, HTML5 VPAID is not new – a Javascript-based implementation of the VPAID standard has been around ever since VPAID 2.0 was released in 2012. But the market stayed Flash-based—until now.

Most video players in the market today support HTML5 VPAID, and it is only a matter of time before publishers start activating their HTML5 VPAID inventory at a wider scale. In fact, many publishers are eager to get rid of Flash video, despite some unresolved gaps with HTML5 video. Flash has become too large a liability.

At Sizmek, we’ve registered over 100 HTML5 VPAID certified publishers. Over 10% of our publishers certified for Flash VPAID are also certified for HTML5 VPAID. However, we’ve noticed this number accelerating – and Chrome’s latest announcement is sure to speed this up even further.

How to Transition Smoothly to HTML5 VPAID 

Publishers: Most of your video players are already compatible with HTML5 VPAID. It takes some work migrating desktop video players to HTML5-compliant players, but it’s worth investing in so that you have a single consolidated cross-platform video player stack. Check with your video player technology provider – they may have switched you over already. If so, you should start releasing inventory that is language-agnostic. There’s no reason why you can’t accept an executable .swf and .js in a VAST file, and have your video player simply select the appropriate executable. Worried about your customers? Several third-party ad servers already allow you to generate VAST tags with both .swf and .js executables.

Ad networks and agencies: Many of you already know that interactive video improves your clients’ brand metrics and engagement rates over standard non-interactive video. You will want to start bringing these benefits into your mobile and tablet campaigns, where cool new creative video experiences are just a touch away for your consumers with HTML5 VPAID. Plus, you need VPAID if you want to run verification and viewability on your video campaigns. Start shifting your campaigns to HTML5 VPAID and demand it from your media partners as well.

One thing that Google’s actions toward Flash-based video players ensures: we all must take steps immediately toward a cross-screen technology platform that works across mobile, tablet, and desktop inventory.

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