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After 20 years, is QuickTime still relevant for the web?

On December 2, 1991, Apple released the first version of QuickTime. Back then, QuickTime was at the forefront of bringing video to personal computers, and it has, without a doubt, had a tremendous impact on personal computing, multimedia, and the Internet since its introduction.

But in the twenty years since then a lot has happened, and the question is what is the relevance of QuickTime today in a web- and mobile-centric world?

Still installed on 55% of Internet-enabled PCs

QuickTime started out as an additional component users had to install on top of Apple’s System Software 6 operating system and later, as well as Windows.

But QuickTime is now a part of Mac OS X, which is also reflected in Apple’s own QuickTime page, which hardly contains any information at all. QuickTime as its own product doesn’t exist anymore.

The first QuickTime logo.

It seemed like QuickTime was for a while presented as an alternative to Adobe Flash then Flash clearly won, just to be entering into new battles.  A study from 2008 pegged QuickTime as the fourth “most pervasive software platform on the web,” after Adobe Flash, Java, and Microsoft Windows Media Player. A similar survey from 2011 put QuickTime in third place, again after Flash and Java. According to that second survey, QuickTime is installed on 55% of “Internet-enabled PCs.”

That said, it’s hard to find any statistics for QuickTime’s usage online. According to BuiltWith.com, QuickTime is all but dead on the web. StatOwl claimed that QuickTime is supported by 56.81% of people browsing the web (July 2011 – December 2011), but its methodology seems a bit questionable as the last few months show 100% for “other.”

With the latest QuickTime X (10.1) only available for Mac OS X (10.6 Leopard and 10.7 Lion), we wonder what will happen to the Windows version, which is lagging behind at 7.7.1. QuickTime 7 Pro is still available for purchase for $29.99, but we guess more for compatibility reasons than anything else.

Perhaps QuickTime is forever relegated to running iTunes Movie Trailers, albeit in very high quality (here is a full HD example).

Is QuickTime even on your radar anymore?

So as QuickTime has become “just” another part of Mac OS X, and the need for it as a general web technology for video and other multimedia files has been at the very least diminished, we wonder about the future of QuickTime.

Perhaps QuickTime will live on, if not in name at least as a technology. Apple’s considerable push for the H.264 video compression standard, which permeates most of Apple’s hardware and software products, could make sure of this. That may be where Apple is going with QuickTime, as a technology supporting HTML5 and H.264.

Whatever Apple’s plans are, is compatibility with QuickTime something you worry about when you build websites today? Do you make sure that a video or audio file plays back fine by QuickTime or is that issue not even on your radar anymore?

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker.

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