It has been a long four years coming, but as of today, YouTube now defaults to HTML5 video on any modern Web browser. What does that mean? Faster video load times, better compression and smoother frame rates, as well as the joy of saying goodbye to Flash.
The biggest thing holding back YouTube's widespread HTML5 adoption as the default container on the world's largest video sharing website was its lack of support for adaptive bit-rate (ABR) streaming. HTML5's four-year development cycle has included work on MediaSource Extensions which has enabled ABR and the potential for time-shifted live video broadcasts on the site. The end result is that YouTube's videos will now load "15 to 80 per cent" faster -- very good news, especially if you're on a dodgy Internet connection.
YouTube's HTML5 hinges on Google's open-source VP9 codec -- you might have heard it referred to as WebM -- which maintains broadly the same video quality as the outgoing H.264 and other formats but reduces bandwidth requirements by around 35 per cent. It also includes support for Ultra HD and 60 frames per second.
Crucially, too, the newest YouTube HTML5 format supports at least some form of digital rights management (DRM) -- not loved by end users, but almost mandatory for rights-holders and big-name production companies and film companies to allow their videos to be hosted publicly. You can find out all the news on Google's official YouTube engineering blog.
Also tangentially related is the fact that this move -- by one of the world's largest media companies -- to adopt HTML5 will further push the format into the spotlight. That'll have a flow-on effect on other streaming video providers like Australia's Foxtel Play, Stan and Presto -- and they'll be playing catch-up with Netflix, which already supports the format.
If you're on a PC with Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Safari 8, or a beta version of Firefox, you should start to see more and more of your YouTube viewing happen seamlessly. [YouTube]