Youtube expands its HTML5 experiment

on
January 21, 2010, 12:17 IST

Kshitij Sobti

 

Quite a while back Google launched a demonstration of what YouTube would look and function like if it used HTML5's video tag instead of the Flash player. The single page demo showcased a video which seemed indistinguishable form the Flash player, until you tight clicked the video and realized that no Flash player was involved.

 
The HTML5 demo page used to be accessible via http://www.youtube.com/html5, which now instead offers a page which allows you to join the HTML5 experiment.
 
YouTube is now making available an HTML5 version of its entire catalog -- well, almost --  of videos when you join the experiment. However the catch is, the video will be streamed in the H.264 format, which if you know is not supported in the Firefox browser. 
 
The HTML5 <video> tag specification is still conspicuously missing a standard for a video codec. While there has been a huge push for the standardization of a format such as Theora, especially from the browser vendors Opera and Mozilla, however Nokia and Apple had doubts about the formats. Apple made the point that H.264 was already a more popular and supported format, which is quite valid. Concerns were also raised about the existence of unknown patents on technologies used by Theora and Ogg.
 

As such, with no standardized format recommendation browsers are free to implement a format of their choice. Currently the important players seem to be H.264, and Theora, and Theora as a format is supported on all browsers due to its open nature, which H.264 is present in Chrome and Safari.

 
This means that as for now, YouTube's HTML5 feature will only work on Safari, Google and Chrome Frame on Internet Explorer, sorry Firefox users. This limitation, along with the fact that the new HTML5 based player wont work with videos having annotations, ads or captions, is something that Google will address over time. Hopefully, soon YouTube will become a fully HTML5 compatible website with support for Theora as well. 
 
YouTube is not the first the introduce HTML5 based videos though, as DailyMotion launched this experiment quite a while back, and http://tinyvid.tv/ is a website which exclusively caters HTML5 videos.
 
While the move to HTML5 is excellent surely, a standard video format still needs to be defined, and an open patent unencumbered format is the dire need of the web. Hopefully Google's acquisition of On2 will bear some fruit?


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