back to article Yes, the new Android movie rentals use Adobe Flash

Google believes online video should be delivered with the HTML5 video tag and open source WebM media format. And yet it just introduced a new movie-rental service that uses Adobe Flash and the royalty-encumbered H.264 codec. It's a contradiction that makes perfect sense. If you're Google. At its annual developer conference in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    How is this a story. Yes, they're pushing HTML5 + WebM. However they straight out tell you that their content providers are requiring them to use DRM. So what exactly do you expect them to do, say no and have no content to rent?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Yes, after all the threats of dropping h.264 support, bombardment of posts on the web needs a royalty free codec and all the hoopla they've tried to generate around WebM that's exactly what they should have done. Even Microsoft tried really hard to get studios to use their Windows Media format (with some success).

      This just shows how hypocrite they are at Google. Everything's fair for a buck, but hey we're open, don't no evil and all that shit, just as long as it's convenient of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        HTML5 doesn't support DRM

        "This just shows how hypocrite they are at Google. Everything's fair for a buck, but hey we're open, don't no evil and all that shit, just as long as it's convenient of course."

        Movie studios want DRM. And HTML5 doesn't support DRM. So the only cross-platform option is Flash. (Silverlight DRM doesn't work on Android/Linux). If you want real openness from this, go and blame movie studios, please.

        I am not a Google apologizer.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          That never stopped Google

          If Google does needs DRM they can add it to their WebM codec, update their Chrome browser to support it and open source or at least open the specs to the DRM mechanism so other browsers can do the same.

          That would be the open and non-hypocrite way of doing it. It's not even a new thing for them as they've done it for Google Talk protocol and their SPDY http replacement ( even if this last one is still not properly documented). Also it would mean anyone could then implement and enjoy Google's video rentals.

          However to preach the openness and wonders of their WebM codec vs H.264 and then go around and use the closed source patent encumbered Flash H.264 video at the first obstacle is the very opposite.

  2. Sozwold

    Another factor to be considered?

    Just thinking out loud, but perhaps Google may also point out (legitimately, or otherwise) that currently there are no smart phones, tablets (or other related devices) that include specific hardware acceleration for WebM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The thing is...

      In 'discussions' over WebM, this is often bought up as a negative of the format and the openistas revel in telling you how it's nothing that a 'simple' firmware upgrade to the hardware will cure. In reality, it's a DRM thing. Seems it's OK if the mighty Google do it, heavens forbid that Amazon, Apple or Microsoft do too...

  3. Neoc

    Am I the only one...

    ...who read the article and thought "and of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that it will lock out iPhone/iPad/iPod users, thus either forcing Apple to change its mind on Flash or to face a horde of angry users who have been left out in the cold"


    1. Sozwold

      Further down the line.

      One last thing that; is it too far a stretch of the imagination that further down the road, Google could file some sort of anti-competition/anti-trust complaint against Apple for locking-out a competitor to their own iTunes video services on iOS?

      This isn't necessarily on Google's agenda right now, but if their new service does well it could be something that pops-up later... After all, I'm sure if Apple wanted to develop it's own iTunes equivalent app for android, I feel sure that it could do so (not that it'd be likely to actually happen) - but with this in mind Google would surely pose the question, 'how about a level playing field'?

      Personally, IMO Google & Apple are just about as hypocritical as one another - but I guess it could still play out this way - in the medium/long term.

    2. Invidious Aardvark

      ...yes you are

      Probably, seeing as there aren't that many iDevice users who run Android on their iDevices and the piece is about video rentals coming to Android devices.

      Also, would you care to suggest an alternative, ubiquitous, streaming video delivery system that supports DRM (you may not like DRM - I certainly don't - but if the studios won't supply content without it, google have no real choice but to adopt a platform that supports it)? I guess google could create their own, but then you'd probably complain that you couldn't use that on your iDevice either...

    3. Sozwold

      Fair point... Corporate politricks?

      Yeah, as you implied that could just exert a little pressure on Apple/iOS on two fronts...

      (Firstly, some of Apple's own user base is unable to access potentially desirable services - that Android users can without issue. Secondly, it potentially reignites the general Adobe Flash on iOS debacle.)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I guess you were

      No iOS user I their right mind would care for Google's probably beta video rentals using craptastic Flash (have you used it much on your Android phone?), when they've had a very good catalog, interface and high quality rentals in the iTunes store for ages already.

      1. Sozwold

        Hey 'Anonymous Coward'.... And anyone who'll listen, lol

        Presumably, since the Google video service is only available via invite, and since you stated that the service is "*probably* beta video rentals" am I to gather that you haven't yet tried the service?

        I'm almost certain (since the service hasn't even launched properly yet) there's no in depth or impartial reviews floating around as of yet.

        Therefore, I must ask (and it's not my intention to provoke you), but do you consider yourself an 'Apple Fan Boy'?

        You may turn out to absolutely correct, the Google service *could* be nowhere near as good as Apple's. However, at this point, we certainly don't have anything at all to base that on.

        The way things are now, Apple has a monopoly on downloaded movies/TV etc. To be fair, they deserve credit for providing an excellent service (which is what enabled them to get themselves in this position). Although a monopoly, however it came to fruition, is very bad news for all of the paying punters (such as you and I).

        Therefore, even for those who obsess (and I'm not suggesting you do) over their Apple devices/software and wouldn't dream of jumping ship, more competition must surely be a good thing. Who knows in a year or three, it could mean Apple customers end up paying less for their TV/movie downloads - because Apple won't want to loose their customer base to a competitor.

        Unfortunately though, adding just one new provider (in this case Google) and for them not to be able to compete on iOS, means that a true level playing field with multiple providers being present on any platform they desire is just not possible at the moment.

        Obviously, some reasons behind this are technical, but many are political. However, until those issues are addressed (within the industry, or via regulation of some type), the average user/customer will continue in a situation whereby he/she doesn't get the deal (in terms of service and/or cost) that they might otherwise have got.

        In summary; having Google's video service available is a step in the right direction - but a long distance away from true competition for either Apple or Google. After all, Apple/iOS users still can't make the switch to Google for TV/Movies and vice versa. True competition can only happen when users have real freedom of movement between service providers. Another reason to do away with DRM, if this particular roadblock wasn't in place - people would have this freedom - and they'd have it right now.

        It took the music industry around a decade realise DRM was a mistake and that it did them more harm than good - just have to wait for Hollywood to wake-up now, if only they could learn from their mistake eh?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          We only need to look at the Google's past services to conclude how good their video rentals will be, plus there's screen shots out already.

          Ffs just look at how crappy YouTube is and they've had years of development, would anyone want to actually pay to watch movies there?

          Only a Google-loving lunatic would think otherwise.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Flash on my phone

        Actually, yes, yes I have. On my tablet too! Works like a champ!

    5. EzJ

      Clearly not but...

      You locked yourself out when you chose a device that was infamous for not supporting the worlds most popular plugin.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Chris Beach


    I think Google are best at 'using' the right tech for the job, they don't have some nihilistic obsession with something. Flash fits the needs of the product now, HTML5/WebM doesn't...yet.

    When, not if, it does Google will switch over.

    Microsoft have thier 'not developed here', and god knows how Apple decides what to obsess on...

  6. petur

    Cade Metz (and some commentards) FAIL

    1) flash is not a codec... waiting for the day that adobe implements WebM, that will leave you puzzled :P

    2) the choice of flash is pretty obvious, it was either that or a dedicated application (like Apple does). Using an open and free system to stream protected content is not obvious - DRM anyone?

    3) So the choice of flash locks out Apple users? What about the other way around? How many Android/n900/... users can use itunes to stream music/video?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Dear me...

      "1) flash is not a codec... waiting for the day that adobe implements WebM, that will leave you puzzled :P"

      As a rule, it's worth checking facts before mouthing off. And here they are. Flash is being used as a 'wrapper' format for the *compressed* video; FLV (FLash Video). I won't go into the specifics but everybody's favourite online 'open' encyclopaedia has a pretty decent article that adequately outlines it. By the looks of things it won't go too far over your head either. Very basically, the video contained within an FLV file is encoded (compressed) and therefore requires *de*coding (decompressing) as raw video would just be too massive to offer as a download, let alone stream. So in this instance it is entirely correct to suggest Flash is being used for COmpression/DECompression (Who'd've thunk! That's where "codec" comes from!) as well as for the 'protection' and delivery of video. Ironically perhaps, FLV supports On2 (now owned by Google) VP6 for this process and is still AFAIK the preferred codec. Flash also supports Sorenson Spark (Sorenson H.263), Screen video and H.264, the latter being the standard (as in ISO/IEC 14496 pt10) that is used by film makers and distributors, as well as BluRay distribution and HDTV (DVD uses MPEG-2 which is in large part also covered by the MPEG-LA). Flash also has the benefit of offering DRM in the browser, as you point out. Whether or not you agree with this is moot. You want streaming movies online, it's going to be with DRM for the foreseeable.

      Having defended Mr Metz's honour, I now feel dirty and am going off to have a shower.

      1. Joe 3

        @AC: Almost, but not quite

        The codec is the process used, not the application used to do the encoding and decoding. Is QuickTime Player a codec? Is VLC a codec? No, so neither is Flash Player. These are programs which implement codecs.

        Also, the FLV format is distinct from H264 - Flash Player supports both. (FLV encodes using Sorensen Spark or On2 VP6, but not H264 which is delivered as a standard H264/MPEG4 file.)

        As iOS supports H264 natively it wouldn't be much of a stretch for Google to write an app which accesses the same video streams that the Flash Player does, so I wouldn't be surprised if Google's video rental service does make an appearance there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          RE: @AC: Almost, but not quite

          "The codec is the process used, not the application used to do the encoding and decoding. Is QuickTime Player a codec? Is VLC a codec? No, so neither is Flash Player. These are programs which implement codecs.

          Also, the FLV format is distinct from H264 - Flash Player supports both. (FLV encodes using Sorensen Spark or On2 VP6, but not H264 which is delivered as a standard H264/MPEG4 file.)"

          I don't recall Cade or myself (or anyone else for that matter) referring to flash player; merely flash video which is a wrapper for the encoded formats discussed. Re-reading my post, I cannot see where it suggested that the player is the codec. I imply that the player decodes (decompresses) the files, but that's not the same as saying the player *is* the codec. So to answer your rather fatuous question; of course not, *but* the do decode (decompress) the formats 'using' the codecs. So the premise that *Flash* is essentially decoding (and by extension encoding) the video is entirely correct. Saying Flash is not the codec is missing the point of *why* petur's flippant comment is incorrect. Flash Video delivers video in two formats: F4V which is the wrapper for h.246 and FLV which is Spark and VP6 (preferred), but it is fair to say that the *FL*ash *V*ideo format supports all three.

  7. Adam T

    Does it matter?

    I don't buy the "doing it to spite iOS users" argument: they could release an iOS app to serve their rentals and play their own video format (YouTube is an iOS app), and they still can with this method.

    Probably more likely that their WebM is a bit toothless and the DRM argument is valid.

    Personally I like the quality of H.264, so I'm not complaining. Don't *really* understand why anyone else needs to complain - anyone having trouble viewing YouTube videos as they are?

    And Google could change the format next year or the year after, and everyone will be picking holes in the decision, whatever it is, all over again. Because sometimes we have nothing better to do than procrastinate all day :P

  8. Gangsta
    Dead Vulture


    "It's still unclear how videos are delivered to Android devices, but Flash uses the H.264 codec, and Google indicated that all videos were encoded with H.264 and only H.264. Presumably, it uses Flash across the board for DRM reasons."

    I'll just take out some words from there.

    ""It's still unclear how videos are delivered to Android devices" + "Presumably,"

    1. Adam T

      Re: assumption

      ...ends in umption...

      quite so


  9. Xtreame96


    So in 2018 when the HTML 5 is more common, and css3 is working and the worlds worst data transport ajax is refined, and websocks start to fix all that is wrong with ajax, we will have a technology, that not all browsers support properly that does what flash 2004 mx did 14 years earlier. And probably not that well.

    So what amazes me is how so many otherwise intelligent people are such HTML5 fanboi's despite the fact that its a terrible idea in a long line of bad ideas.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Until I have no choice, I refuse to rent movies online!

    OK storing shed loads of DVDs is a pain but I can rip a copy of the movie any time I want into any format I want and play it any time and anywhere I want. When I have a copy of the movie, I dump it on the NAS and everyone in the family gets to enjoy the movie file on any number of different devices they have. That, media corps is called choice.

    Until the media corps realise there are those of us out here who want choices, you can stick your limited online rental cobblers up your download port!

  11. TheReverendT

    Continues the one man crusade, eh?

    Flash and HTML are delivery mechanisms for content. One supports DRM , the other doesn't.

    H.264 and WebM are codecs, and I imagine that WebM delivery through Flash will soon become efficiently possible.

    This article is a joke. No surprises there.

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