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Is HTML5 the Future of Online Video? It Could Happen.

Imagine the future of online streaming videos delivered to standard browsers as a pure HTML 5 web application.  But go further, and picture in your head those same applications delivered not only to computers, but mobile and tablet devices as well—without having to worry about a lot of special coding.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is a formatting language used to create web documents, and HTML5 is the latest version of it, which allows programmers to get creative with online videos by incorporating video, audio and canvas elements.

In December of 2010, Christian Kaiser from Netflix blogged about what he thought would need to happen in order for Netflix to transition to HTML5 streaming, and the above words paraphrase his thoughts.  In fact, he called it an “attractive goal.”

If you haven’t given HTML5 much thought lately when it comes to your online explainer videos, here are some benefits that may make you take a second look.

Go 3D

If you want to create a 3D video player now, your thoughts likely instantly go to Flash.  But it’s possible to create a 3D video using HTML5 and WebGL, and avoid the use of plugins.  For instance, Pablo Odorico, working on Google’s Chrome Experiments, created a 3D video player demo this way.  He wanted to use hardware acceleration and no plugins in order to mimic YouTube’s Flash 3D player.  His success shows us the potential of HTML5 to create animation videos that feature modern effects that can be supported across many devices.

Style Away

If you pair HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3, you can achieve custom controls, unique transformations and other special effects in the stylesheet and markup.  That’s because the <video> tag is an HTML element.  In fact, Mozilla has recognized the power of pairing HTML5 with CSS3 in Firefox 4, and has released some video demos to demonstrate it.  The videos feature time-lapse, shadow and lighting effects and poster creation.

Real Time

Using the HTML5 features on a browser, you can add real time effects to your video, such as adjusting the size, rotation, scale and skew—all while the video is playing.  To get an idea of how this looks, check out the Tron movie trailer demo done by Franz Enzenhofer.

The Bad News

Most people today still use Flash as a backup mechanism because about 25 percent of browsers don’t support HTML5.  In addition, the codec war that is currently raging means that browsers have their own preferred default codec, and in order to use HTML5, you’ll have to encode it in multiple formats.

But still.  HTML5 has come a long way, and people generally like the idea of a unified application.  Today, many publishers of explainer videos rely on HTML5 primarily to cater to those users who can’t play video via Adobe, but with the discovery of new uses and applications, it could very well advance to its rightful place soon.

Written by Suzanne Kearns
Suzanne has been a full-time freelance writer for 20 years. She’s written for numerous business and financial publications such as Entrepreneur, Reason Magazine, Home Business Magazine, Intuit, and Money Crashers. You can reach her at [email protected].