In the emerging world of HTML5 video, the H.264 codec has the early lead. But as anticipated, Google threw a new competitor into the mix today at Google I/O. Google's VP8 codec is now available to anyone to use royalty-free. This was announced as part of a larger project called WebM in conjunction with Mozilla and Opera.
Many have been concerned with the patent ownership of H.264, and open source projects like Firefox have been unable to include it. VP8 could be a real alternative here. The other open alternative, Ogg Theora, is seen as having inferior quality to that of H.264 and VP8. There were rumors earlier today that Microsoft would be building support for VP8 into the upcoming Internet Explorer 9. Redmond has clarified they will support the standard, but users will need to install the codec on their systems.
In short order Chrome, Firefox, and Opera will have support for the new codec. Youtube will also be made compatible with VP8. No word on if Safari will join the VP8 club as well. Flash isn't dead yet, but there's another vulture circling it now. Would you prefer VP8 or H.264 be the next generation video standard?
Hulu is constantly updating their Flash-based video player, but one change they don't plan on making is the addition of an HTML5 video option. The company's VP of products Eugene Wei said in a blog post that, "[HTML5] doesn’t yet meet all of our customers’ needs." He lists a number of reasons for this, many of which point to the callous side of the streaming business. Wei notes that the Hulu player must secure content, serve ads, and control bandwidth.
HTML5 video is seen as the next step beyond Flash by many. It would use a tag to describe a video element to the browser, which then decodes the video directly. This necessarily means the video is more accessible to the end user, making it easier to copy. This is one of the reasons Hulu feels HTML5 isn't for them. Add to that the inability of HTML5 as it stands to serve ads within content, and you can see why Hulu is sticking with Flash.
This course of action will keep devices like the iPad from playing Hulu content for the time being. Though, possible mobile apps could get around that. In fact, that would jive nicely with Hulu's rumored pay model. Do you feel like HTML5 is the future, or will issues like this hold it back?
Like many of you out there, we are Gmail addicts around here. So a feature addition to Gmail is always an enjoyable event. When it solves a problem in a really simple way, it's even better. Gmail has added the ability to drag and drop images into the composition panel, and it definitely solves a problem. This is similar to the recently added ability to drag and drop attachments into messages.
In our testing it worked very well. Even dropping in large images resulted in only a slight delay before they were visible. It's just a small addition in the grand scheme of Gmail, but when combined with other new, intuitive features it really makes it feel like a more elegant experience. We assume this is accomplished with some sort of HTML5 implementations in Gmail.
Google is currently only supporting this feature in Chrome, but other browsers are coming soon. What features do you want to see in Gmail?
It doesn't matter whether you blame Apple or Adobe for the lack of Flash support on the iPad and other iPhone OS devices, the end result is that consumers ultimately pay the price. It's unfortunate, but Facebook wasn't about to let the Apple/Adobe tiff put a damper on the social networking experience, no matter which device you're rocking.
As such, it appeared as though Facebook had jumped on the HTML5 bandwagon, at least for its newest videos. Apple iPad owners who tap on a newer Facebook video are no longer greeted with a "Flash Player upgrade required" message, and instead the videos now launch in full-screen. HTML5 all the way, right?
Not so fast. While that was the initial conclusion, Facebook hasn't actually made the switch to HTML5 compliance, and instead is linking out to the actual video transcoded to MP4 when it detects the Safari browser on the iPad. MacStories.net claims to have "confirmed this by uploading a video file to Facebook in WMV format (a non-iPad compatible video format) and then attempting to play it on the iPad. It played as an MP4 file."
The sites include the likes of the New York Times, Vimeo, CNN, and The White House. Confusingly, the Apple page does not link to the sites; it just shows a header for each. Apple has a description of how each site has implemented design changes for the iPad. Some sites like Reuters are listed as having HTML5 video for “most” content, while Virgin America is “almost entirely standards based”.
Apple also has a link at the bottom of the page asking, “Is your site taking advantage of the latest web standards?” Website admins are encouraged to submit their site for consideration as “iPad ready”. Hopefully this will be more informal than the App Store approval process.
It’s often said that HTML5 will take over the web and push out the current mishmash of standards. Microsoft and Adobe would like to respectfully disagree with that. At the recent Open Source Business Conference executives from both companies said they believe the future of the web will include their proprietary formats, Flash and Silverlight.
Microsoft did have nice things to say about HTML5 though. They plan to use the standard in conjunction with their own plug-ins. Adobe too said they’d utilize HTML5, pointing to their web tools space. Of open source in general, both execs agreed that it could be an efficient way to distribute software.
The battle for multimedia delivery is still just getting under way, but plug-ins (especially Flash) have a big head start. Do you think HTML5 will come out on top, or are we looking at a mixture of standards?
The recent announcement of the iPad, and revelation that it would not support Adobe Flash, revived debate on the plug-in’s future. If you take Steve Jobs’ word for it, Flash is a CPU hog now and always. Video encoding expert Jan Ozer decided to look into it himself, and the results may surprise you.
On both Mac and Windows platforms, Ozer tested Safari, Chrome, and Firefox (additionally IE was tested on Windows). Safari on the Mac showed HTML5 besting Flash by a wide margin with only 12.39% CPU utilization versus 37.41% for Flash 10.0 and 32.07% for 10.1. Chrome saw HTML5 and both version of Flash with almost 50% CPU usage. Firefox doesn’t support the HTML5 encoding used, but Flash results were similar to Safari.
On Windows, it’s a different story. Safari’s CPU utilization on Flash 10.0 was 23.22%, but 10.1 showed only 7.43% used. Chrome was the only Windows browser that both Flash and HTML5 could be tested in. On Google’s browser, HTML5 used a sizable 25.66% of the CPU. Flash 10.0 was up at 22.00%, but 10.1 used only 6%. Firefox and IE showed similar huge gains from the 10.1 version of Adobe Flash.
Clearly, the GPU acceleration on Windows makes a huge difference and means Flash is more efficient than HTML5 most of the time. The Mac, however, does not expose the necessary APIs for Adobe to do GPU acceleration. Adobe has said the "the ball is in Apple's court". So Apple does not allow Flash to run efficiently on OSX by denying the plug-in access to the graphics hardware? Given these Windows test results, we think that’s kind of unacceptable. Where do you come down in the streaming standards battle?
Make sure you check out Jan Ozer's full rundown here.
Has it really been a year since Google rolled out Offline Gmail? The exceedingly useful feature allows users to compose, sort, and search mail when no internet connection is available. Now Offline Gmail is leaving Google Labs and becoming a permanent part of the Gmail experience. The feature, as implemented, uses Google Gears to create a local storage cache. This is somewhat interesting given Google’s plans to ditch Google Gears and move to HTML5. Will the offline features be updated prior to the release of Chrome OS?
Coinciding with Offline Gmail’s departure from labs, Google has added two new features that were requested by users during the testing period. Gmail will now allow users to decide which messages are downloaded for offline use. You can now also queue up attachments to mail while offline.
If you haven’t been using this feature in the labs, you’ll still need to enable it in settings. If you’ve been using it this past year, what’s your experience been like?
Similar to the IE Chrome Frame that Google released late last month, Mozilla suspects that Google’s engineers would have Firefox suffer the same fate.
The “Chrome Frame” idea is that within a completely different browser, Internet Explorer for example, one can view the website as Google’s Chrome browser would render it. The site can also take advantage of Chrome's latest technologies without installing a new browser.
Mozilla’s VP seemed a bit peeved about the whole thing. While it is still speculation on whether Google plans to create the plug-in, Mike Shraver, VP of engineering at Mozilla, says “I hope they won’t.” The biggest argument against Google, from Microsoft and now Mozilla, is that it over complicates the browsing process and can break certain aspects of the browser. Further, that HTML5 (supported in Chrome) is not a specified standard, and developers should be wary about developing with something that is not yet set in stone.
Ultimately, one would think Google’s thought process on the plug-in might be “one browser to rule them all,” and we all know how that turned out.
It may even be possible to see support for WebGL in native WebKit browsers in as little as 6 months. Safari and Chrome are probably on the forefront of this technology, as they are based on WebKit. Firefox, while based on the Gecko engine, has an extension capable of displaying a WebGL 3D canvas. As for Internet Explorer, don’t hold your breath. Microsoft still has yet to implement HTML5, let alone upcoming technologies.