Hulu Overhauls Web Player, Says They'll Stick With Flash For Now

We're still waiting for this so-called Hulu Plus subscription to go into effect, but while everything's still free, we'll try to pretend that Hulu is just updating their video player out of the kindness of their heart. There's no certain indication that this overhaul is leading up to a paid option for select "premium" content, and it's nice to see a company such as Hulu making it easier for consumers to enjoy content. The company has rolled out a slew of new improvements to their video player this week, with a few changes in particular really setting the bar high for everyone else to match.

The new player is not only more streamlined, but it's actually larger and less convoluted. A lot of behind the scenes changes have happened as well; using ActionScript 3, Hulu's new player utilizes adaptive bitrate streaming. This allows the player to shift video bitrates and resolution up and down continually to match the user’s bandwidth, which provides a better overall user experience. The menu also allows you to force the player to stream at a fixed resolution of 480p, 360p, or 288p, if you'd rather.

There's also the addition of volume normalization, a closed captioning display, and a few of the more interesting features that involve searching. Seek Preview allows users to hover their mouse over a certain spot in the video and see a brief glimpse of what's there; this helps users nail the right spot more often, rather than just poking around and having to wait through ads to see if they fast forwarded to the right spot. Furthermore, there's a new Heat Map feature that lets users see where specifically that other viewers have frequented, enabling you to better guess those "awesome parts" to jump to. Both of these are surprising additions; Hulu makes money from ads, which are viewed more if users watch more. Helping users skip to the places they like could undermine that, but we're guessing that Hulu assumes more users will join in now that the experience is better, which should more than offset the difference.

Hulu closed out the news post with a note on HTML5. HTML5 has been all the rage of late, as it's a video format supported by Apple and their iPod touch, iPad and iPhone. It's an alternative to Flash, but Hulu's not buying in. The company says, basically, that HTML5 isn't advanced enough to handle everything they need it to. Hulu does more than deliver video; they also log views, send information to advertisers, etc. Basically, they're sticking with Flash partly due to contract obligations. They're still watching developments in the space, though, so don't count HTML5 out yet.