Friday, January 22, 2010

Are HTML5 Video betas specifically for the Apple Tablet?

If you're not a geek, the recent moves by YouTube to begin a beta of HTML5 videos quickly followed by Vimeo doing the same thing probably warranted nothing more than a feeling of "So what?"

HTML 5 is the newest specification for how web pages (and more) can be built for viewing in a web browser. One of the most significant changes for this new version is the handling of video and other rich media technologies. In the past, the only way to have video on the web was either to have users download video files and play them manually on their computer, or to use a technology like Adobe Flash or Java to play them in a custom-built module (this is how both YouTube and Vimeo do it today). In HTML 5, browsers will instead be capable of supporting specific video file types directly in the browser. Currently, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome all support some form of HTML 5 (Firefox does not support the new implementations of YouTube and Vimeo). By pushing video to the browser itself, we allow for more direct interaction with video, and a more efficient memory footprint for handling it, allowing better performance with less horsepower (and less battery required).

But it is especially significant that these changes are being released only a week before Apple is expected to announce a Tablet Computer. The iTablet or iSlate or whatever the name could have been designed to run MacOS X like a laptop or the iPhoneOS - and while MacOS X has a (memory and CPU hungry) implementation of Adobe Flash, the iPhoneOS has explicitly banned it. The fact that these moves are being made now may imply that Google (which has a long relationship with Apple and is likely to be on stage next week when the Tablet is announced) knows the Tablet will run iPhoneOS and thus will not support Adobe Flash. This may mean an end to Adobe's near-monopoly on rich interactive content on the web, and especially with regards to video. Which may change the Web more than you expect.

We live in interesting times.

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