The HTML5 video element and the future of Online Video

HTML5 is a set of web specifications being developed as part of an ongoing project by the “Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group” (WHATWG). These specs include new HTML5 features like geolocation, canvas, video and application cache. The HTML5 video element is particularly interesting.

What is the HTML5 video element?

The HTML5 video element is a refreshing alternative to run video files in the browser directly without using a plugin. Rendered using JavaScript, it provides a consistent User Interface for users and a standard platform for web designers.

The HTML5 <video> tag enables videos and movie clips to run seamlessly on new age mobile platforms like iPhones, iPads and Android smart phones.  Designers will have another option to display video on websites along with proprietary plug-in software like Flash.

Why do we need a <video> tag?

One may ask when we already can easily play videos on the web, what is the need to create another way to display the same. The answer in a single word is, Standards.

Prior to HTML5 there was no standard way to play videos on a web page. Nearly every video you have ever watched online used a third-party plug-in like QuickTime, RealPlayer or mostly Flash. Everything works fine until someone who wants to watch your video doesn’t have the required plug-in installed.

Compatibility issues and cross browser support

HTML5 video still has some ground to cover with respect to compatibility. There is a general lack of unanimity regarding the format to be used to run JavaScript video files. The top browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer (IE9), Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari use different formats to support video elements.

Current implementation

Apple’s decision to support HTML5 specs for its Safari browser has made the video feature quite popular with current web users. Most iPad and iPhone users view high resolution video clips using HTML5 video in the h.264, also called as MPEG-4 part 10, codec format. Browsers like Chrome and Opera use the Theora format, which is royalty free, to render videos.

YouTube offers visitors the option to view movie and video clips in HTML5 as well as Flash. Browsers that support both; the video tag in HTML5 and either the h.264 video codec or the “WebM” format (Firefox version 4) can play HTML5 Videos on YouTube.

In another key development, licensing for the h.264 format has been freed up for non-commercial use. This enables browsers like Firefox to provide HTML5 video to its end users without less legal constraints.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain; the HTML5 video feature provides good video quality. With further development, videos will be easier to integrate into websites through the HTML5 Video element.

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