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Why are the videos in Flash so slow?

Posted on: Jun, 15th 2010
 Logo of the Adobe Flash Player with a forbidden sign above it
Have you ever tried to watch a Youtube high definition video with a slow computer? If you didn't try it, I tell you that, regardless the charge time, it's played slower than a lame and asthmatic turtle. However, if in that same computer, you download the video and play it with a good video player like VLC, you can see it perfectly. Do you want to know why?

The fast explanation is that the player used for play video at the web (the Adobe Flash Player) is garbage. It goes slow at Windows and even slower at the rest of the operating systems, especially at Linux based systems.

This is mainly due to the fact that the prior version of the Flash Player (the 10.0) didn't use hardware acceleration. Although to be honest, this is not entirely true, the player use the hardware acceleration for resize the video when you play it at full screen.

Any program, that use specific hardware to the task that have to do, always will be much more fast than the ones that make the same thing, using only the general purpose processor.

Luckily for us soon it will be finished the HTML5 and the XHTML5 W3C specifications, a new languages for the web development that allow add videos to the pages, leaving to the browsers the responsability of implement its own player. This is something very good for the users, since the video at Internet will not continue dominated by the parsimonious player of Adobe, that have versions for all the browsers and operating systems but no one works well.

With this situation and the announce of Apple that will not include support for Flash at its devices iPad, iPod, iPhone, iP..., etc., have released the Flash Player v10.1, that finally make use really of the hardware acceleration for the video player, although I don't know if it's for all operating systems, and if it make use all the hardware functionalities.

Couldn't they do it before? It is not something so difficult to do, specially taking into account that practically all the operating systems use standard programming libraries for play video by hardware. This libraries makes easy the task of program a video player, as they provide the necessary algorithms implemented.

For instance, at Windows exists the DirectX Video Acceleration, at the X-Window System of Linux, the X-Video Motion Compensation and at Mac the Video Decode Acceleration framework.

In fact the other two web video players, the QuickTime and the RealPlayer, are capable of use the hardware since years ago, although neither are available on as many platforms like the Flash Player, nor its use are so extended.

It's clear that they neglected the development of this video player while they wasn't threatened. With this they force the users to buy more powerful machines for view high definition video and they made it impossible view it at portable devices.

Since Macromedia launch at 2002 the first version of the Flash Player that could reproduce video, until now, it doesn't haven't evolved much at performance. But as we have seen, this is beginning to change. In the future will have better versions of the Flash player or we use the players integrated in browsers with HTML5. Who knows?, Flash is well established but the HTML5 is free and also Youtube and Vimeo are making test to go use HTML5. With the pass of time we will see it.

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