Google Chrome gets HTML video support

Chrome joins Firefox, Safari, and Opera with the ability to display video without a plug-in such as Adobe's Flash. But the HTML standard is rough at best.

Google's Matthew Papakipos touted HTML 5 features including the video tag at the Google I/O conference Wednesday.
Google's Matthew Papakipos touted HTML 5 features including the video tag at the Google I/O conference Wednesday. Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google has begun supporting a new HTML feature to show video in its Chrome browser as an alternative to Adobe Systems' much more widely used Flash, but the technology overall remains rough around the edges.

The support comes in Chrome 3.0.182.2, a developer preview version that on Wednesday inaugurated work on the 3.0 generation of the Google browser. HTML video is one of a handful of technologies in the still unfinalized HTML 5 standard that Google hopes will transform the Web from a collection of relatively static sites to a foundation for full-blown applications that rival those on PCs .

The "video" tag in HTML already is available in various versions of Apple's Safari, Firefox, and Opera, which at least in theory makes handling video on the Web as easy as handling images. But the HTML 5 standard that includes video isn't finalized yet, so don't expect a coding revolution yet.

The video tag can be used to show video that today would show up in a conventional box, just as with Flash or Microsoft's competing Silverlight plug-in. But it also enables deeper integration with a Web site. For a good example, watch Paul Rouget's demonstration of HTML video in which images, text boxes, and videos are overlaid on another video, with a JavaScript program dynamically changing the appearance.

In a talk Wednesday at the Google I/O conference , Matthew Papakipos, a Google engineering director, said HTML 5 video will permit close integration with the Web site's programming, so for example various actions on the Web site can trigger different videos to start or stop.

The video tag tucked in Daily Motion's Web site could be a harbinger of significant changes on the Web.
The video tag tucked in Daily Motion's Web site could be a harbinger of significant changes on the Web. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

HTML 5 video still faces many hurdles to adoption, and browser support being just the first. Next come resolution of browser compatibility problems, upgrades by browser users to support the feature, and real-world use of the technology on Web sites.

The challenge is illustrated by video entertainment site DailyMotion, which on Wednesday announced plans to make 300,000 videos available through the HTML 5 video technology by the third quarter of 2009. DailyMotion recommends the Firefox 3.5 beta version to watch videos, which indeed worked for me, but the newest Chrome developer version and the Safari 4 beta reverted to Flash.

DailyMotion touts its use of HTML 5's video tag to show videos encoded with Ogg Theora technology--but the feature doesn't work with the Safari 4 beta or the latest version of Chrome.
DailyMotion touts its use of HTML 5's video tag to show videos encoded with Ogg Theora technology--but the feature doesn't work with the Safari 4 beta or the latest version of Chrome. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

One issue is the technology used to encode and decode video. Firefox supports the Ogg Theora format for video (and the Ogg Vorbis format for the related HTML 5 audio tag), for example, and that's the format that DailyMotion is using.

More common in the real world, though, is the H.264 standard. Papakipos said Chrome will support H.264 video and AAC audio as well as Ogg Theora video and Ogg Vorbis audio format.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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