YouTube launches a beta of a Flash-less HTML5 version of their site which uses the new HTML5 <video> tag and h.264 encoded videos. They bill it as working in "Chrome, Safari, and ChromeFrame on Internet Explorer" where "ChromeFrame" is Google's Internet Explorer plugin that basically swaps out the IE rendering engine for Apple's open source WebKit (which also powers Google's desktop - Chrome - and mobile - Android - browsers). From the Chromium blog:
Recent JavaScript performance improvements and the emergence of HTML5 have enabled web applications to do things that could previously only be done by desktop software. One challenge developers face in using these new technologies is that they are not yet supported by Internet Explorer. Developers can't afford to ignore IE most people use some version of IE so they end up spending lots of time implementing work-arounds or limiting the functionality of their apps.

With Google Chrome Frame, developers can now take advantage of the latest open web technologies, even in Internet Explorer. From a faster Javascript engine, to support for current web technologies like HTML5's offline capabilities and <canvas>, to modern CSS/Layout handling, Google Chrome Frame enables these features within IE with no additional coding or testing for different browser versions.

To start using Google Chrome Frame, all developers need to do is to add a single tag:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="chrome=1">

When Google Chrome Frame detects this tag it switches automatically to using Google Chrome's speedy WebKit-based rendering engine. It's that easy. For users, installing Google Chrome Frame will allow them to seamlessly enjoy modern web apps at blazing speeds, through the familiar interface of the version of IE that they are currently using.

It's still going to take a while (several years at least) but the end is drawing inexorably closer for both Flash and Internet Explorer. IE just doesn't work correctly and Microsoft seems unable to fix it, and Flash is too resource hungry for low powered mobile devices (plus it gives Adobe way too much leverage in a future where they just are not needed by Google and Apple.)
- jim 1-21-2010 3:00 pm

Thanks for this info. I hope you are right about Adobe but my w*rkplace just made the big jump to...IE7 (!) (Which still reads the web poorly.) It will take a while to rid the world of IE. (And I'm not defending it.) I think this new spec would show better faith, though, if it included Firefox in the beta and not just Chrome, Safari, and ChromeFrame on IE. If it's truly open source why not throw a bone to Mozilla users?
- tom moody 1-21-2010 3:58 pm

Firefox has excellent support of web standards (as does Chrome and Safari.) So they support the HTML5 <video> tag. The problem is with the video encoding and decoding algorithms. Basically, browser makers are split between supporting Ogg Theora and h.264 as the video codec for displaying movies in your browser. I think this Ars article does a good job explaining the problems. Apple can be seen as the culprit since they refuse to support Ogg. Their arguments come down to the threat of submarine patents against Ogg and the lack of hardware decode support for it (or, the widespread hardware codec support for h.264 - which is related to the fear of submarine patent claims against Ogg.) Hardware support means lower power devices (like smartphones and portable media players) can handle high resolution decode either at all, or with much less battery drain, over decoding Ogg in software on the CPU.

It's too bad a better solution couldn't be worked out, but the fight has been over for a long time and h.264 has won. Websites (like YouTube) can't encode everything in both codecs since the space requirements would be insane, and h.264 looks better at lower bitrates, so that's another win in terms of cost for sites with huge bandwidth bills.

Mark probably has better insight here but I think I have the outlines correct.
- jim 1-21-2010 4:37 pm

Perhaps I'm getting out of web game programming just in time.
- L.M. 1-21-2010 5:44 pm

Thanks. But wouldn't you say that moving YouTube to h.264 (and the resulting tag-alongs) will ultimately force people to abandon Mozilla in favor of Google/Apple? I would give up YouTube if it came that (not being a fan of inevitability arguments coming from victors who strong-arm the system). I would have to change all my links to YouTubes to say "not viewable in Firefox" except 90% of those links are already dead because of "user violations."
- tom moody 1-21-2010 5:45 pm

First off, YouTube isn't going h.264 only. They may never. I think they will eventually but it will be years. By that time Firefox will adjust. Royalty payments on h.264 are, I believe, capped at $5 million / year, something Mozilla could swing if they had to (they have revenue of around $50 million / year) or someone could float them.

- jim 1-21-2010 5:57 pm

As you know I use mp3 and not Ogg so my righteous indignation only goes so far. I just find arguments like "we can't agree so I guess we have to do it my way" frustrating.
- tom moody 1-21-2010 6:33 pm

I got nothin.

Except my standard mantra that standards are good. They give chip designers a hard target to design towards. Video decoding is just too hard to do efficiently in generalized hardware.
- mark 1-21-2010 9:13 pm

Vimeo follows suit.
- jim 1-22-2010 3:24 pm

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