HTML 5 Simplifies Online Video

HTML 5 might be two years away from official approval, but it is already simplifying Internet video.

HTML 5 is an ongoing effort to make web pages simpler and more reliable. It is nearly in its final form now, and it is expected to become an official recommendation in 2013. Already, though, HTML 5 is simplifying the delivery of video in web pages.

The HTML 5 object that makes this possible is the iframe object. The iframe got a bad reputation years ago because of the glitchy way it was originally introduced, but the new HTML 5 iframe retains none of those early hiccups. The good thing about iframe is that it is all about embedding, which is just what you need to put video on a web page. All major web browsers now support iframe well enough to show movies. On my web pages, I began using it for YouTube movies barely a year ago. Now it has become the standard approach, used by major web sites for movie content (though not, yet, for most advertisements).

Using iframe simplifies the delivery of movies on a web page by separating the movie player from the movie file. In the past, up until 2010, it was possible to show a movie in a web page only through intricate interactions between the movie player and the movie. It is a miracle that this approach ever worked at all, but given how complicated it is, it is no surprise that it fails a good fraction of the time. Then you see an empty box or error message where a movie should be. If you have noticed fewer such failures this year, it is because the pages you are looking at are using the HTML 5 approach.

You can see the advantages of iframe if you embed movies in a blog or other web page. The embedding code for an Internet movie used to be 1,000 characters or more. Now it is barely 100 characters of HTML 5 code. It is not just the embedding code that is simpler. Everything about web movies has been simplified, and that is why the code can be so much simpler.

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