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Myths and Misconceptions About HTML5

There’s been a lot of hype about HTML5, so naturally a lot of errors have crept into the discussion. To help you separate truth from fiction, we spoke to two experts on the subject.

[1]Zohar Babin and Michael Dale both work for HTML5video.org [2] (and both work for the open source online video platform Kaltura [3], which runs the site). They’re currently in Los Angeles for the 2010 Streaming Media West conference, where they led a pre-conference workshop on HTML5 and Web standards.

Before their session, we took a few minutes of their time to talk about these HTML5 myths.

Myth 1: HTML5 is a direct competitor to Flash.
You don’t need to choose, because they can work together, Dale and Babin explain. HTML5 is the evolution of HTML, the markup language that defines the Web (and existed well before Flash). Flash, on the other hand, is a proprietary technology and is able to evolve faster. The two complement each other, with Flash picking up the features that HTML5 can’t yet do.

Myth 2: Adding a <video> tag is all you need to do to serve video.

HTML5 might make serving video easy, but not that easy. You’ll still need to create a video player with your branded look, serve multiple bitrate streams, and work with a CDN or OVP to host your work. Apple is promoting HTML5 as if it’s ready to go as an alternative to Flash, Dale and Babin say, but serving video with HTML5 isn’t simply a one-step operation.

Myth 3: Flash is responsible for a lot of browser annoyances.
Flash can create pop-ups and animated ads, sure, but so can HTML5. We’re starting to see them now. In fact, the Web will become more annoying, not less, once HTML5 is more prevalent, Dale and Babin explain. At the moment, you can use browser plug-ins to stop animations and strip out irritating Flash. That won’t be possible once HTML code is building the offending page items.

Myth 4: Apple is driving HTML5 on Steve Jobs’s whim.
Apple had a clear business reason for opting to go with HTML5 over Flash, says Dale. Adobe didn’t open up its platform fast enough to make it vertically integrated on software and device platforms. Ironically, though, “They needed an open platform so they could make it less open,” he adds, referring to Apple’s closed app system.

Myth 5: HTML5 and Flash offer similar features.

There isn’t a feature parity between HTML5 video and Flash, and advertisers are strongly aware of it, say Dale and Babin. When viewing an HTML5 video ad, for example, you can easily drag the playhead forward and go straight to the main content, something advertisers can prevent with Flash. HTML5 simple doesn’t give nearly the same control over the video.