Does your browser do video?

Those who haven’t left the planet in the last year have at some point heard of HTML 5, the new improved language that will likely power the Web in the coming years.

One of the many great features it sports, which will be of interest to free formats enthusiastics, is the multimedia elements: <video> and <audio>. Imagine being able to post video and audio in your blog as easily as you do with images. On forums, on online shops, on office intranets, on anything. It really has the potentional to revolutionize the Web. No more Flash, no more YouTube. Independence! And all of this using Vorbis and Theora as the baseline codecs!

Sounds too good to be true? Mayhap. I’ll be honest with you. There are problems, starting right there with the browsers. You, the users, need to understand that this will only take off if you start using those elements to 1) force browser makers to support them and 2) make other people aware of them. The browsers have to support those elements and its associated codecs, but that will only happen if there’s a demand for it, and that demand can only come from its users.

Firefox is heading in that direction, and Opera has shown interest too with already two experimental builds, but what about the other browsers? The way I see it, if you see promise in those features you should request your browser maker for them. And, meanwhile, you should probably post content in the Web using Theora and Vorbis through the <video> and <audio> elements.

With free software browsers the process is easy: you either request or vote for that feature in their bug tracker, or you code it yourself and give them the code, which will look good in your resume.

With proprietary browsers it is a bit more tricky. You have to contact the company and hope they care about your opinion. But it’s either that or nothing, so it’s worth a try at least.

Finally, you can download a Firefox video-enabled to help test it for bugs, or you can look into Opera’s experimental build, which unfortunately only works in Microsoft Windows currently. Then, you can test any of them in the demo pages that both Opera and Mozilla’s Chris Double provide.

4 Responses to “Does your browser do video?”


  1. 1 marc nothrop

    WebKit nightly builds have supported the VIDEO tag since around 12 Nov, offering the only support on Mac so far.

    Decoding is handled via QuickTime, meaning Ogg/Theora will play if the Xiph QT Component is installed, though unfortunately that’s a pretty big limitation at this point.

    ASIDE: adding the Xiph Components adds Ogg/Theora support to all QuickTime enabled apps, including iTunes, tho obviously not to iPods. Likewise the Xiph DirectShow plugins for Windows extend support to Windows Media Player.

    I agree with your assertion that increased use of Ogg/Theora is one of the most practical actions individuals can be take, and use by Wikipedia and Archive.org should help somewhat.

    Perhaps another pragmatic approach in the meantime would be to increase the reach of the Xiph QuickTime Component (and DirectShow plugin), perhaps in concert with Perian (Mac), to provide a user presence and updating infrastructure.

    The Miro video aggregator may also provide another opportunity for support and advocacy; Theora is supported internally, and their current search for a server could emphasise Theora for royalty-free distribution.

    In practical terms they might offer the ability to install the Xiph QuickTime Components/DirectShow plugins, to provide system-wide support.

    Just some initial thoughts on practical steps to increase support…

  2. 2 Ivo

    > Perhaps another pragmatic approach in the meantime would be to increase the reach of the Xiph QuickTime Component (and DirectShow plugin), perhaps in concert with Perian (Mac), to provide a user presence and updating infrastructure.

    Improving and expending the XiphQT Component would likely be a great boost in the use of Theora et al in Mac. The problem however is that Xiph has one single person working on it and only on his spare time. Not good. If someone could help the author, or maybe fork the project and improve it from there would be tremendous.

    > The Miro video aggregator may also provide another opportunity for support and advocacy; Theora is supported internally, and their current search for a server could emphasise Theora for royalty-free distribution.

    I don’t understand exactly what you are saying here. Miro’s looking for a server, and if we could provide it they would help promote Theora? Is that it?

    > Just some initial thoughts on practical steps to increase support

    It’s really appreciated.

  3. 3 marc nothrop

    Hi again,

    Re the Xiph QT Component on the Mac;

    - it appears that the next version of Opera will support Ogg natively, but has an even smaller reach on the Mac (and no Mac build to verify this speculation!),

    - maybe Firefox will end up with support via an extension (given the code freeze), but at present doesn’t look promising for support in 3.0,

    - failing FF for all platforms, the growing Safari user-base comes into play; a coming version will support via QT, so this is at least a start in increasing Ogg’s exposure to ‘real people’.

    > The problem however is that Xiph has one single person working on it and only on his spare time. Not good. If someone could help the author, or maybe fork the project and improve it from there would be tremendous.

    Yes, well I guess I’m taking a long(ish) view, and looking for the ‘virtuous circle’ of increasing usage leading to increased support/resources.

    In this regard the Perian activities to collate various open-source codecs is a good example, and indeed collaboration between the Perian and Xiph guys might be possible..?

    > I don’t understand exactly what you are saying here. Miro’s looking for a server, and if we could provide it they would help promote Theora? Is that it?

    I glossed over the Miro thoughts; basically I’m suggesting that increasing the availability of royalty-free Ogg could very much be seen as an extension of the Participatory Culture Foundation’s mission statement.

    Therefore an argument could be mounted that Ogg compatibility should be an important criterion in their search for a new server component, with the Foundation motivated to support Ogg.

    If you accept the notion that the large iTunes user base reinforces publisher’s choice of MP4/AVC, then Miro (and Azureus) could increase Ogg’s viability, at least as the open alternative.

    So, yes, their server might facilitate Ogg distribution, if not as a default, then perhaps multi-format publishing, at least for non-commercial’s.

    Pragmatically speaking, Ogg is unlikely to gain significant commercial support (in the foreseeable future), but that does not change it’s viability as a royalty-free baseline, and as with your argument to spread the format, it seems to me the only viable way to do that is to make it as easy as possible to consume AND publish in Ogg.

  4. 4 marc

    …of course for ‘Ogg’ I mean ‘Theora’, and though I’m not as familiar with the DirectShow plugin, that also seems to be an immediate means of increasing Theora support… assuming the distribution story could be improved.

    All of these are suggested as fall-back positions given that the web-agents are likely to hand-ball the issue, rather than support Theora internally.

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