Video Essentials

What is HTML5 Video and Why Should You Use it?

Some attendees of the recent HTML5 Video Summit in Los Angeles were looking for experienced tips on how to maximize their streaming performance, and some were just looking for the basics. What is HTML5 video and why should I use it? That was the question put to Jeroen Wijering, creator of the JW Player, during a morning session.

“HTML5 video is just a tag like an image tag, that is supported by HTML5. So you put a video tag in your website, you say ‘the source is this video,’ and it will play. You don’t have to use Flash or Silverlight or other difficult tools or plug-ins. It’s a very basic way of embedding video on your website,” explained Wijering.

So that’s what it is, but why is it more useful that other methods of streaming video, such as Flash or Silverlight?

“As to ‘why should I use it?,’ I think there’s two answers. There’s a long-term answer in that if you have support in HTML5 itself, it’s a lot easier to have video interact with other stuff on your website. It’s a lot easier for accessibility purposes to be able to have blind people, deaf people jump into your video and see it in alternate ways. It’s a lot easier for search engines like Google to actually pick up the video. They have a lot of trouble right now because everybody has their own Flash player. It’s very opaque and difficult to look into that, and actually find a video and index it,” answered Wijering. That’s the long-term answer. The short-term is much less elaborate.

“In terms of short term, it’s very simple: Apple does not support Flash,” said Wijering. Any publisher that wants to stream to iPad and iPhone owners had better get familiar with HTML5.

For more from the session including what audio and video codecs work with (some) HTML5 browsers, watch the full video below.


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  1. You need to normalize the audio.

    Posted by steve hovland | February 14, 2012, 1:42 pm
    • One of the truisms about video is that those who create it often know nothing about audio. When I was a kid, I worked first at a radio station, and then at a TV station. I was amazed to discover that the TV operators turned the audio monitor OFF, because they were satisfied everything was OK if they could see something! Not only is the web loaded up with a lot of crappy video, much of has audio that is even worse…

      Posted by Uncle Ricky | February 14, 2012, 3:24 pm
  2. I am also interested in how to stream HTML5 video.
    I was familiar with Apple’s now defunct Streaming Media Server, but I understand this doesn’t do HTML5 video, which is why they stopped supplying it.

    Posted by Derek Wiltshire | February 14, 2012, 2:48 pm
  3. I’m a content developer. Is HTML5 adequate for securing proprietary video content? I don’t want users downloading and sharing my content.

    Posted by Macintosh Smith | February 14, 2012, 5:18 pm
  4. In a Business Development site, I have not heard anybody speak of Video Layers, but yet I read that “Flash” is the way to accomplish this interaction.

    Also read that HTML5 can do the job, but how does the html tag code to work to allow a layer, such as a button on the video to click for more information, as a re-directional interaction with your viewer?

    can u assist?

    Posted by Cal | February 16, 2012, 10:19 am
  5. Nice talk, but ironically the video won’t play on iPad.

    Posted by Anton T | February 16, 2012, 4:18 pm
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