Friday, January 22nd, 2010

YouTube and Vimeo turn on HTML5 video tag

Category: Showcase, Video


At Google I/O the team showed a demo of YouTube running video right in the browser, instead of in the rectangle of Flash.

Now, that URL takes you to the beta, which you can opt-in too. I am torn on what to write on this showcase though…. so, especially since it is Friday, here are two takes:

Open Web Advocate

It is fantastic to see a massive site – the poster child of Flash video – implement HTML5 video. If you want to piss of an Adobean ask them “how do you feel about YouTube folks making millions off of the back of your work. Surely you got a bunch of license money… oh wait.”

This is the first step for YouTube, and now that video is a native experience in the browser they can innovate in really interesting ways.

One bonus feature for trying the beta: “Videos with ads are not supported” :)

The Other Guy

It is great to see YouTube showing off HTML5 support, however you will notice that it only works in the Safari/Chrome world (saying it works in IE via ChromeFrame is cheating) due to the fact that YouTube only supports H.264 and hasn’t done Ogg. Sure it would take a lot to get Ogg support at that scale, but it would also help the cause a lot.

When you test it at this early stage you also see that there isn’t HD support or much of the other features of the Flash player, so instead of showing off how the experience can be better….. it is in catch up mode. Features such as full screen aren’t even an option yet of course. We need to move faster.

I am looking forward how things play out over time. What guy are you today?

NOTE: Vimeo are turning on support too, also H.264 only.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 6:21 am

4.6 rating from 44 votes


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I hope this pushes other browser vendor to also support H.264. So we finally have a cross browser solution for videos. If this is the case allot of other will follow the example set by YouTube and Vimeo.

Comment by V1 — January 22, 2010

@V1: and exactly _how_ is H.264 native in the browser better than it is via the flash plugin? There’s still the whole patents / licensing issue which people conveniently gloss over, and which is 90 percent of the reason for the existence of the video tag.

Comment by Joeri — January 22, 2010

Its pretty sweet to browse youtube with this on iphone safari, wipes the floor with the native app.
The codec mess won’t be sorted out for awhile though; both h264 _and_ theora need to work on every platform. Big entertainment corps will use h264 because they move slowly and buy mpeg’s hype, and everyone else will use theora because of the threat of eventual licensing fees.
So for IE we need a theora implementation for the flash player, for firefox we need native h264, and for webkit native theora. In the meantime, youtube could unify their codebase with an html5flash-style approach and use video tags that fall back to flash h264 on firefox and IE.

Comment by rdza — January 22, 2010

I have to agree with Joeri. Sometimes I get the impression that people screaming for the video tag are a vocal minority who haven’t really thought things through. I don’t think the *idea* of such a tag is bad; video has become such an integral part of the web having such a tag makes a lot of sense. It’s the implementation of this idea that is extremely lacking.

Let’s start off with looking at current adoption.

If I’m going to put up a video on the web, do I want to put it up in Flash or HTML 5 video? If I put it up in Flash format, I know that Flash is installed on at least 95% of all browsers. If I do what Google did above, I know that HTML 5 video with h.264 is installed on (at *most*) 8% of all browsers. If I want to put up a video guess which format I’m going to choose? Oh-so I’m suppose to use HTML 5 video you say and Flash as a fallback? I’ll get to this.

So I’m assuming the reason I should be adopting HTML 5 video is because end-users are clamoring for it. It must have plenty of features users don’t have with Flash, right? Just the opposite appears to be true. Dion points out a number of deficiencies above; it’s clear that HTML 5 video at best is as good as Flash video, and in many cases isn’t.

You know what end user’s care about? That things work. That they can do what they want to do. You know what’s not important to most users? Free vs. non-free, standard vs. non-standard. People just want things to work. The other issues are the kind of things that are important to us *developers*; but don’t get that confused with your average user.

Since we’re talking about developers, let’s go back to my earlier point. I’m assuming based on all of the excitement that HTML 5 video should be adopted by developers en-masse because its so much easier to work with? That even if it provides no better functionality than the tools that I have, it’s better from a developer stand point? The strategy that’s advocated at this point is to use HTML 5 video and then fall back on Flash. This means, in essence, that I now need to encode in three different formats (h.264, theora and flv) to handle the new fractured video-space. If you’ve been working in the industry for a while, this ought to bring back warm and fuzzy memories of having to encode for Quick Time, AVI and Real Media.

In summary, as a developer, I have increased my workload for zero-added functionality that no end users are clamoring for and that less than 10 percent can even see (if they even noticed). Will someone please explain the point of this again?

Comment by coryn1 — January 22, 2010

@joeri – I’m not putting V1 in this crowd but most people I’ve seen that think H.264 native in the browser is better than in the Flash plugin is because of an unnatural hatred for Flash. This hatred has a tendency to cause these people to avoid logic at all costs. Too often the complaints make no sense when, in fact, there are legitimate complaints about Flash.

The post itself gives a classic example of this with the crack about pissing off an Adobean. I don’t even understand why such a statement would anger anyone that possesses common sense. You could easily ask the very same question to the companies that create browsers we download for free.

Personally, I think this move by YouTube is interesting and good for the web. There’s nothing like getting big sites to push new technologies that hopefully will cause others to follow suit. But it’s almost useless unless we can get Microsoft to fully embrace HTML5 now or get more people to move away from IE. HTML5/CSS3 is great but I fear we have a long, hard road ahead of us.

Comment by travisalmand — January 22, 2010

@coryn1 – excellent points

Comment by travisalmand — January 22, 2010

This probably has a lot more to do with the mobile web than supporting the video tag from HTML5. I think @rdza is probably on to one of the issues and why H.264 was selected. There is no getting around the iPhone being the hot platform for mobile and H.264 is what they support for streaming. Hate it all you want but they are trying to keep support in the main stream. There may even be more complexity involved, who is to say that the current youtube app on the iPhone continues to be supported? It will be much harder for any mobile platform to pinch down on supporting the video tag for some websites and not other. The iPhone set the precedent for what is going to be supported. It may not be the likable choice but the ship has sailed.

Comment by carsonm — January 22, 2010

Flash supports H264, that’s why HTML5 YouTube and Vimeo are using it. I believe that for newer videos, only H264 is converted and served in the case of YouTube. Converting to FLV should not be necessary, with the possible exception of backwards compatibility.

Comment by spongeh — January 22, 2010

The reason why I like the native support is because Flash video spins my processor into 90% and turns my Macbook into a small personal heater. Not too bad in the winter, but sucks in the summer.

Comment by pkenoyer — January 22, 2010

“If you want to piss of an Adobean…”

Clearly, we don’t know the same Adobeans.

Comment by joshtynjala — January 22, 2010

slovenia and perpetum jazzile rocks! ;)

finally some real progress… it seems like google is determined to give a huge hand to get things moving…first with html5 in wave, than with not supporting older browsers in yt and now with video tag

thanx google!

Comment by DamirSecki — January 22, 2010

h.264 HTML5 video won’t be a big thing until both IE and Firefox will support it natively. On the other side it’s a nice thing to have as it’s a small step toward freeing video content from its flash containers and being able to play with it with javascript. Just think of greasemonkeying youtube videos or embedding them into your custom players.
And it is a good thing for the iphone users that cannot access youtube with a browser because Apple wants total control on its device.

Comment by pmontrasio — January 22, 2010

It’s a bummer to see that both Youtube & Vimeo have held onto their established visual style rather than allowing browsers to utilize the built-in controls while overlaying the custom elements (ie. “Like”, “Share”, etc.) in addition to the built-in controls.

The big difference is the ability to use fullscreen… Everything is going HD, but we have to watch it in a less-than-HD viewing area instead of viewing it fullscreen? The play/pause, volume, and time controls are universal… but they seem to prefer aesthetic in exchange for the fullscreen feature. Web designers/programmers didn’t switch to flash for aesthetic reasons. The reason they switched to flash is fullscreen & the time it takes to launch the plug-in. Both sites show that they took 2 steps forward and 1 step back.

Fullscreen will NEVER be possible via a custom control skin due to the potential of malicious scripting.


Comment by KZeni — January 22, 2010

Social online video users won’t have a problem with alternative browsers. If IE or FF supports h.264, it’d probably take hold almost overnight. And it would only take one of them.
But h.264 is going to be a big thing, regardless. If YT and Vimeo move, everyone would surely follow.
Mobile should be obvious.

Why not? Just make it act like how pop-ups are blocked or a context menu item after right clicking the video or a hotkey.

Ogg Theora/Vorbis has too many problems. Buggy in major browsers. No Flash fallback. Mobile support. h.264 bandwagon in motion. Nobody actually cares enough (to do anything). Etc etc.
It’s just not going to happen. And the Mp3 situation really isn’t all that bad.

Maybe if they made a Javascript/Canvas decoder? *

Comment by jhiswin — January 23, 2010

Going from Flash to html5+h264 is pointless. Youtube has replaced one closed codec (flash) with another (h264). The whole motivation towards html5 was to fix this problem and it hasn’t!!!

” Free vs. non-free, standard vs. non-standard. People just want things to work. ”

You know what would make things just-work ? Using html5 + a free encoding format like Ogg Theora. If you want youtube video to just-work on every device imaginable the only way it can happen is with a free codec.

Comment by leif81 — January 24, 2010

I wonder what would happen if the MPEG-LA did the non-greedy thing and dropped the need for licenses on free software and focused on commercial software, physical media and mp4-capable hardware exclusively?
Would Mozilla be willing to implement h264 support then? – or would they _still_ want a solution without patents?

Comment by rasmusfl0e — January 24, 2010

Ya I know, it’s not like it’s supported by the XBOX360, PSP/PS3, Android, iPhone, and who knows how many other devices (, or the most common audio format is non-free:

I’d imagine they’d still demand it be totally open source.

Comment by jhiswin — January 24, 2010

@jhiswin A skin is basically javascript controlling the video… and the people in control of structuring the video tag have stated that they don’t want to have fullscreen toggled via JavaScript.

That being said, I didn’t realize that you can double click the video to toggle fullscreen at any time (even with a custom control skin). I can understand why they don’t point this out considering fullscreen isn’t available yet to non-nightly Safari & Chrome. I imagine at some point in time they add an overlay or something similar that informs people that double-click toggles fullscreen.

Comment by KZeni — January 26, 2010

it is a good thing for the iphone users that cannot access youtube with a browser because Apple wants total control on its device.

Comment by passguide — May 10, 2010

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