The next version of Flash Player will support the H.264 video codec - allowing much better quality footage, for less bandwidth.
H.264, also known as MPEG4 Part 10, is a video standard offering much greater compression than its predecessors, as well as working over a huge range of bandwidths and resolutions.
Such is the reduction in bandwidth that it's possible to increase the quality while reducing the bandwidth requirement by an order of magnitude, as exemplified by encoding the same video clip twice.
This has made H.264 very popular, initially with mobile phones for very low bandwidth video, but now including high definition video systems such as Blu-Ray and HD DVD, as well as broadcast HD services.
Decoding H.264 takes quite a bit more processing power than earlier codecs, but since 2003 (when the codec was completed) silicon has come down in price and manufacturers have been able to create specialist circuits to further reduce costs. These days an increasing number of devices are supporting H.264, and with Flash support the standard will quickly come to dominate internet streaming.
With YouTube encoding all new uploads in H.264, and everyone from Sony to Nokia embracing the standard (Apple Quicktime has had it for years), the real question is why it's taken Adobe so long to implement.
The new version won't be launched until later this year, but a beta should be available later today. ®