Flash powers almost all the video on the web nowadays, so it's obviously good enough. But is there a better way? YouTube, and now Vimeo, who're both giddily jumping into bed with HTML, sure seem to think so.
Vimeo's new HTML5 system is just like YouTube's, in both execution and technical details, in that it'll only work with a few browsers—Safari and Chrome, for now—and that it's compatible with most, but not all, of the company's video libraries. It's something that most people won't bother to try at this point, and if they do, they're probably be underwhelmed, since HTML5 video playback is almost indistinguishable from Flash video playback. (Moving pictures!)
But it's primed to be something that everyone ends up using, and that would be a Very Good Thing. Flash video performs terribly on Mac OS X and Linux, and on the few mobile devices that do support it, playback is uniformly terrible. And generally speaking, it's a plug-in. We whine about having to install Silverlight to use Bing Maps or watch some kinds of video, but it's a plugin the same way that Flash is.
HTML5 allows certain types of video to be rendered in the browser natively, like JPEGs or GIFs are now. It's an objectively simpler, more efficient solution, and disregarding the massive infrastructure built up around Flash video, it would be the obvious choice.
Luckily, YouTube accounts for a hefty chunk of said architecture, their catalog is rendered in HTML5-friendly h.264 format already—that's how you watch in on the iPhone and Android, by the way—and with help from smaller sites like Vimeo, they could actually get the ball rolling on, you know, murdering Flash video. In a world where everybody's browser fully supports h.264 HTML5 video—a world that's a few years away, at least—we wouldn't have to wait years for Flash support in our new phones, wouldn't have to settle of chugging video playback on near-new machines, and we wouldn't have to put up overladen, poorly-designed proprietary Flash players getting in the way of our content. We'd just have...video. [CNET]