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HTML 5 video tag – a replacement for the Flash player?

by werner on July 19th, 2009

So far, I use the Flash player to deploy videos on the web. Because it is the only one which works in all browsers on Windows and Mac OS X. But in the future, this might change since the HTML 5 video element has been adopted by Firefox 3.5 and Safari 4.

Since I am a lazy person, I only want to encode a video in a single format and then use it everywhere. A format known to me that runs fine everywhere is MPEG-4 with H.264 encoded video and AAC encoded audio. This format is supported by Flash, Windows Media Player, QuickTime, iTunes, iPod and iPhone.

On Mac OS X everything works fine: both Safari and Firefox can play back MPEG-4 videos using the HTML 5 video element. Both browsers do this by means of the QuickTime browser plugin.
Unfortunately on Windows this is not the case: Despite having installed the QuickTime plugin in Firefox, only Safari plays the video.

Therefore I gave it another try. This time with the OGG file format with Theora encoded video and Vorbis encoded audio.

Again on Mac OS X everything works fine. To get support for this format in Safari I had to install XiphQT, and I had to remove the type-attribute from the video element. (The latter won’t be necessary in future versions of Safari, since WebKit nightly plays the video without alterations of the video element). Firefox 3.5 plays this format natively. Yet again, on Windows the result is not satisfactory. Now it is the other way round: only Firefox plays the video, but Safari does not. Maybe this is just the case, because I couldn’t get the XiphQT plugin to work on Windows.

Looks like we are not exactly there yet. I’ll stick to Flash for now.
Support for the HTML 5 video tag is brand new. I hope these problems will be fixed in a few releases.

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