YouTube recently stated that they want to help push HTML 5 to the forefront and have begun a more robust experiment to use it on their site. You have to opt-in to beta program in order to see the HTML 5 pages and there are some serious limitations to what it can do right now.
In a recent blog post, YouTube has stated that the number one request from user (hard to believe) was that YouTube do more with HTML 5. Why users would even want them to is beyond me since only three browsers currently support their version of it (with MP4 as the file container) – Safari, Chrome and ChromeFrame for Internet Explorer. Of course, firefox does support HTML5 with theora but the YouTube version does not.
The install base of those three combined is probably in the sub-20% of all browsers. In fact, according to Market Share by Net Applications, Chrome just recently surpassed Safari with a whopping 4.63% install base (see image). It shows that Chrome and Safari combined don't even have 10% of the market at present so you'll forgive me my healthy skepticism I'm sure. I have no data on the ChromeFrame plug-in install base, but even 10% would be astounding.
Perhaps YouTube users are those 10% of the world that use Safari and Chrome? Anyway, so they've started this new test using it as the player. When you get into the test it will begin to utilize the HTML 5 player for videos. However, it won't work for (here are the serious limitations) videos with "ads, captions, or annotations." Now if you're a Partner on YouTube do you really want anyone looking at your Ad-supported videos with HTML 5? I certainly wouldn't if I were. It defeats the whole purpose of the ads. And really, what YouTube is saying is "we can only get this to work for the most basic of videos with no fringe benefits or fancy stuff."
So what's their game? Perhaps they don't want to continually rely on Adobe Flash anymore? Perhaps they really do want to, as the blog post said "be part of moving HTML5 forward on the web." But isn't it still years from acceptance, implementation and widespread use?
Of course you'll also need the proper codecs for video and audio which means an h.264 codec and more as well as one of those browsers.
How to get involved?
To try it out, go to the HTML5 page via TestTube or visit this page and join the experiment. This will enable HTML5 video for your browser, provided that it's one of the browsers mentioned above and fits in with the parameters we already referenced. (If you've opted in to other experiments, you may not get the HTML5 player.) You can also enable Feather watch along with HTML5 video for an even simpler, faster YouTube experience.
Feather is another of their projects to reduce the viewing pages to their bare essentials which means a lot less features for the users but faster loading etc.
I'm rather perplexed by their decision to start pushing for HTML 5 adoption so early. I hope this attracts their attention so they an tell us their logic behind it aside from their mention that users were requesting it (not that this is not important). I'm very much interested to hear about it. I'm not ANTI-HTML 5, but as I said in my previous article, HTML 5 Won't Kill Flash Video Player (at least, not anytime soon).
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