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, 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.


  1. For years I haven’t heard anything about QuickTime. QT is only required for old websites.
    Never use it on my websites, and now I’ll never use it in favor of HTML 5 video.

  2. “StatOwl claimed that QuickTime is supported by 56.81% of people browsing the web”…
    That is playing with words. QuickTime is still pushed into your Windows installation with many Apple installations. Maybe the OS supports it, but that’s different from ‘people’.
    Given that users are not really waiting for half a dozen players that each support only a few codecs (Quicktime among them), my answer to your question is NO.

  3. Actually, QuickTime is more relevant than ever. ISO approved QuickTime’s file format as the basis for MPEG-4 file format. Apple was highly influential in convincing patent holders of the H.264 codec to agree to licensing terms conducive to wide-spread adoption. Apple did what Adobe could not do: understand that its work needed to be freed through the process of standardization in order reach its full potential.

  4. Silverlight was popular for awhile because it was created by Microsoft, now many sites that used Silverlight have moved back over to using Flash which is more widely supported– and still others to HTML5 Canvas which is supported on all modern devices (most notably the iPad and iPhone for which Apple will not allow Adobe to offer a Flash or Silverlight plugin, which has upset Adobe somewhat and resulted in a bit of a corporate flame war).

    Silverlight can be presumed dead at this point, and the only viable solution for highly compatible websites is the new HTML5 standards.

  5. I use QuickTime on a site as a MIDI player. It is essential to the community that the site exists in. The links default as standard file links, but if the QT plugin is detected it adds features to the links.
    Without QT I’d likely have to use some other approach , like Jasmid, which I don’t want to do.

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