A couple weeks ago, in the wake of Steve Jobs’ tirade against Flash and why the iPad won’t support it, I wanted to find out exactly how much video out there on the Web is already encoded in the iPad -friendly H.264 format. Encoding.com provided me with some data showing that 66 percent of the videos it encoded in the first quarter of 2010 were in H.264, up from 31 percent the year before. Today, video search engine MeFeedia reported that only 26 percent of the videos in its index are in H.264, which prompted my good friend Peter Kafka at MediaMemo to question my report (the gall) and ask, “How Much Web Video Is Really iPad-Ready?”
It is a good question, but the answer remains about two thirds. To get a reality check on this number, I asked another video search engine, blinkx, which has an even bigger index than MeFeedia, for an estimate of how much H.264 video is on the Web. Their answer: “around 67 percent.” And remember, the original 66 percent figure from Encoding does not represent all videos ever uploaded to the Web, but rather shows the shift that is happening as H.264 takes over. That was just the number they saw in the first quarter of 2010. The percentage is likely much bigger now. In fact, Blinkx estimates that as much as 85 percent to 90 percent of the Web videos it is currently processing are in the H.264 format.
Regardless of the exact numbers, it is pretty clear that H.264 is being adopted in a big way across the Web. Even MeFeedia CEO Frank Sinton admits to me that “more than 50 percent of new videos coming through right now are H.264.” MeFeedia tends to index more longtail video, and its 26 percent figure includes not only a lot of old archived video and longtail video that hardly anybody watches, but also a lot of video from Chinese web sites which are all in Flash.
Going forward, practically all videos on the Web will be encoded in the H.264 format, which means they don’t need an Flash player to play them. Websites still need to change over to HTML5 players or otherwise tag the videos to make them playable on iPads, and that is a transition which will still take some time. For instance, Hulu announced today that it is not quite ready for HTML5 players, but not so much for technical reasons as for business reasons. HTML5 players don’t yet support all the advertising systems and reporting requirements Hulu needs to serve ads. But these problems are being solved by Brightcove and others (Brightcove just announced a deal with FreeWheel earlier this week to serve up HTML5 ads). Eventually, Hulu will solve these problems too and be viewable on the iPad. Probably first in a dedicated app, but then in the browser as well. And so it will go for all video sites.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen within a year.