Twitch finally starts ditching Flash for HTML5

Twitch is about to get a whole lot friendlier to the anti-Adobe Flash crowd.

The game streaming site is starting to release its HTML5-based video player for the web in small increments. First up are the HTML5-based player controls, which are rolling out slowly, starting with an initial pool of channel pages.

This first step is far from the reality of a pure HTML-based video player, as the video itself is still Flash-based. A Twitch staff member recently explained over on Reddit that the switch to HTML has to happen in small increments due to Twitch’s heavy use of Flash technology.

“We do EVERYTHING in Flash right now,” the staff member said. “So we have to port every feature one-by-one into HTML/JS [JavaScript] before we can release the player.” Twitch also said it can’t completely get rid of Flash in order to support Firefox, and older browsers that aren’t compatible with MediaSource Extensions—a tool for JavaScript-based video streaming.


Twitch’s current Flash-based player.

Firefox does support MSE but only in limited form for select websites such as YouTube and Netflix. MSE should be available for all sites in Firefox by version 42, based on discussions on Mozilla’s development pages. In the meantime, non-Firefox using gamers should soon see the new player controls—and eventually the end of Flash completely—on Twitch.

Why this matters: Twitch is an extremely popular video site; the fact that it’s giving up on Flash is a huge win for users. HTML5 video is far less of a battery hog than Flash, and less resource-intensive overall. Twitch’s staff member on Reddit said the unoptimized version of the HTML5 player the company is testing now uses a third of the CPU and a sliver of the memory its current Flash player does.

Next steps

Twitch has yet to say when we’ll see video move from Flash to HTML5; however, over on Reddit the site’s staff member did offer a little bit of information. After the player control/UI interface roll out is finished, the company will focus on HTML5 video and then release an alpha. It’s not clear how the alpha release will work.

Twitch’s move to HTML5-based video follows the site’s switch to HTML5-based chat, which started rolling out at the end of June, replacing Flash.

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