A Brave New Plugin-Free Web Experience
The new HTML 5 language specification is a huge step forward in terms of providing a more robust user experience on the Web. It represents the first major advancement of the web’s standard markup language since HTML 4.01 was initially published in December 1999.
Most significantly, provisions have been established for embedding video which mimic the look and feel of Flash and Silverlight (e.g. usage of custom skinned UI playback buttons) but without the requirement for a proprietary plugin download (e.g. Apple QuickTime, Adobe Flash Player).
Unfortunately Internet Explorer 8 currently does not fully support HTML 5 audio and video tags (here’s why). While this could certainly change in the near future, it is not surprising when discussing current and emerging Web standards, IE historically seems to trail everybody else by 1-2 years. Why Microsoft continually ignore open Web standards is a rather unfortunate mystery.
Open Video Standards Are A Breath Of Fresh Air
Being a bit of a Flash evangelist in recent years, I’ll be the first to admit open standards for video in the browser are a breath of fresh air. Proprietary plugins have traditionally ruled the Internet representing the only viable avenue for realizing Web-based video. Building RIAs, this problem was compounded when trying to reach people on corporate and government networks where IT administrators would notoriously limit or block access to 3rd party plugins including Flash content.
In terms of open encoding tools, Firefogg a browser-based extension for Firefox allows you to encode videos to the ogg theora format.
Yes, Flash handles full screen HD video in the browser better and more reliably than any other Web-based plugin right now; and Flash-driven video sites like Hulu.com (available to U.S residents only), cbc.ca/video, or fora.tv offer great video experiences. But establishing open standards for video with HTML 5 makes video even more accessible and to a broader audience.
HTML 5 Video Example:
Dailymotion has a demonstration of HTML 5 video capabilities which appears to work fine in Firefox 3.5 yet oddly not with Chrome 220.127.116.11.