Video sharing mega-site YouTube has unveiled a new experimental video player built around audio and video technology supported in HTML 5. The service is in limited testing and, currently, only works in Apple’s Safari browser (version 4 or newer), Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer wit Google’s Chrome Frame installed. However, users who sign up for the beta can start to see what a version of YouTube without Flash might look like.
Right now, the vast majority of video available via the Web is served up via Adobe Flash. While Adobe is certainly thrilled about that situation, it does mean that video is being handled via proprietary technology and browser plug-ins—and, as history has shown, that means most Web video is rife with stability, performance, and security issues. The developing HTML 5 standard looks to improve on that situation by including support for open audio and video formats and playback without requiring browser plugins—so long as they have a browser with HTML5 support and appropriate codecs.
YouTube’s HTML 5 experiment currently has a number of limitations: no full-screen mode is available, and users won’t be able to see videos with captions or annotations with HTML5—they’ll load using Flash instead. Similarly, videos with ads will load using Flash.
YouTube says it plans to expand the HTML 5 player’s capabilities going forward. Although HTML 5’s audio and video capabilities are not expected to rival Flash as a platform for interactive page elements or the all-important embedded advertising systems YouTube continues to develop as a source of revenue, support for HTML 5 video playback could expand YouTube’s footprint into areas where Flash support is weak or doesn’t exist at all, as well as make YouTube a more secure and stable experience for many users.
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