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Rich Media

With both Microsoft and Adobe putting considerable energy into their respective multimedia formats, Silverlight and Flash, and the rise of web based video, driven in part by the popularity of YouTube, as well as the increasing adoption of broadband around the world, we wanted to get a sense of the extent to which developers were using this kind of content, how they were using it, and what formats they were using.

Since the 2008 Survey, the HTML5 video and audio elements have become increasingly supported in current browsers, while there’s considerable contention as to which video and audio “codecs” should be natively supported by browsers. As well, the lack of support for Flash (and Silverlight) by Mobile Safari has become a very hot topic among web developers. For this survey, we expanded the range of questions and options to get a better sense of how respondents are adapting to this changing landscape.

We first asked Do you incorporate media into your sites other than HTML, CSS, Javascript and images (for example, Audio, Video, Flash or Silverlight)?. The result was up a small but significant amount from the previous survey, with 67.5%, up from 62.8% answering in the affirmative.

Do you incorporate media into your sites other than HTML, CSS, Javascript and images (for example, Audio, Video, Flash or Silverlight)?

Answer Count %
Yes 946 67.48%
No 315 22.47%
Answer Count %
Yes 774 62.72%
No 339 27.47%

As with the previous survey, we then asked of those who answered yes which formats they use. Comparing this year’s responses to the previous survey’s is difficult, as we expanded the range of options for this survey. Some observations we can make include

  • Flash maintains its dominance with around 60% of all respondents nominating this as a format they use.
  • Silverlight, while up from 2.1% to 3.6%, still has a long way to go to get remotely similar mindshare to Flash among respondents
  • YouTube leads as the standard way to embed video content, at 42% of respondents, but Vimeo has a very healthy 27%

For the next survey, hopefully we can refine our questioning to get a clearer sense of the formats respondents are using to embed content.

Which kinds of content do you use?

Type Count %
Flash 829 59.13%
Silverlight 51 3.64%
Quicktime 231 16.48%
Real 10 0.71%
H.264 188 13.41%
Ogg Theora/Vorbis 44 3.14%
MP3 330 23.54%
Windows Media 66 4.71%
AVI 53 3.78%
Embedded Vimeo Content 377 26.89%
Embedded YouTube Content 591 42.15%
Other 46 3.28%
Answer Count %
Flash 757 61.35%
Silverlight 26 2.11%
Quicktime 242 19.61%
Real 25 2.03%
Others 22 1.78%

As important as the formats that respondents are using are the uses to which they are putting this content. To this end, we asked “What do you use this kind of content for?”

  • 64%, up from just under 60% said Video
  • At 39%, almost an identical percentage to last year said audio (respondents could choose more than one option)
  • 17.7%, down from 22% said “Embedded games and other interactive applications”
  • Only 4.2%, down from 6.7% said “whole sites” (which is still higher than might be expected)

What do you use this kind of content for?

Type Count %
Audio 554 39.51%
Video 900 64.19%
Embedded games and other interactive applications 248 17.69%
Whole sites 59 4.21%
Answer Count %
Audio 483 39.14%
Video 729 59.08%
Embedded games and other interactive applications 272 22.04%
Whole sites 83 6.73%
HTML5 Media Content

HTML5 introduces two new media specific elements, video and audio, for embedding this kind of content. In addition, developers have long used the HTML object element, or the non-standard but widely used embed element to embed video, audio and other such content. This year we asked respondents how they include such content in their sites.

The object element, the standards based, though traditionally at times challenging way to include such content was used by 46.7% of respondents. The embed element, which HTML5 proposes to standardize for the first time due to its widespread use was nominated by 32.2% of respondents, while HTML5 elements were nomiated by 9% of respondents, a very healthy result for an approach only recently supported in browsers, and not in Internet Explorer.

The ongoing use of the never standardized embed element is cited as the reason that HTML5 is proposing to include this element for the first time in an official version of HTML. These results raise the question of whether essentially blessing the use of the element, and so adding yet another way to officially include media in HTML is actually unnecessary.

How do you include this kind of content in your sites?

Method Count %
Primarily or always the object element 654 46.65%
Primarily or always the embed element 451 32.17%
HTML5 audio/video element (with fallbacks where necessary) 126 8.99%

As the web becomes an ever more rich media experience, how developers add this kind of content to their sites is shaping up as an increasingly interesting issue. Apple’s position on Flash (and other plug in based content like Silverlight) in Mobile Safari, the ongoing uncertainty about video patents and in particular video codecs like H.264, Google’s recent announcements regarding support of Ogg formats, and their open source projects in relation to the VP8 vdieo codec they recently acquired mean that this issue may yet take some time to play out. We’ll continue to track developer practices in future surveys.


Next, in our next section, we’ll take a look at the server side technologies respondents use.

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