The W3C recently announced the ratification of the HTML5 web standard. Despite it’s widespread use and implementation, the standard had never been made official. That all changed on October 28, 2014 when the W3C published it’s official recommendation for HTML5. Up until the initial release of the HTML5 standard and well beyond that point the evolution of web video has been chaotic as best. For many years Flash helped to calm the chaos, until Steve Job published his scathing ‘Thoughts on Flash’ in April of 2010. This marked two moments, the beginning of the end for Flash video, and a major thrust of HTML5 video into the mainstream and collective consciousness of the development community. Upon the ratification of the standard, Paul Cotton head of the W3C HTML5 working group proclaimed “the single most important feature of HTML5 is probably the <video> tag since today’s web is rapidly moving to being more about video.” This is something we’ve known all along and why we’ve supported HTML5 video since nearly the beginning.
The big differentiation between Flash video and HTML5 video is that Flash requires a proprietary plugin, made by Adobe. The only thing that HTML5 video needs is a browser that supports the <video> tag element. Beyond browser support all you need is a source, its controls, its dimensions (height x width), and a poster image. With the shift of support from a plug-in to the browser, the browser became the determining factor in supporting formats for the video source. With the embattled browser landscape this created a little bit of chaos. Initially, the open source browsers, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all went with the WebM format which is royalty free. Safari, Internet Explorer, & Chrome supported the widely accepted, but not royalty free mp4 format. Over time this has changed and now all major browsers provide support for the MP4 format. The MP4 format is licensed through MPEG LA. CanIUse.com publishes the most up-to-date information on HTML5 video browser compatibility.
Where do we see HTML5 video heading in the future? The first thing, and it’s already happening, is the continued broadening for compatibility of HTML5 video in browsers and devices. In addition we’ll finally see the death of the almost breathing but barely alive video plugins like the flash. One thing is certain, we’ll continue to provide support for HTML5 video as it continues to evolve. How are you using HTML5 video today? Where do you see it going in the future? Let us know in the comments!