Video experiment shows off HTML5 on Chrome

Alongside Arcade Fire song "We Used To Wait," lots of pop-up windows and videos incorporating real street scenes from Google Street View are among the highlights of this crafty Chrome demo.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
2 min read
An accurate rendering of the view from the front door of my childhood home, provided courtesy of Google Street View and the programmers behind the latest Google Chrome experiment. Google

The official Google blog on Tuesday posted a link to an experimental music video for the Arcade Fire song "We Used To Wait" that shows off the capabilities of HTML5 with Google's Chrome browser.

I gave it a run earlier this afternoon. After I followed the instructions to close other applications and enter my home address, the video took about 15 seconds to start. My first impression was a flashback of visiting shady Web sites back in the days before pop-up blockers existed: a cascade of no fewer than eight browser windows opened, and trying to close any one of them displayed a message warning that I'd exit the application altogether.

But once I gave up trying to control my screen, the experience was pretty amazing. The application opens and closes browser windows in time with the music, and about halfway through, one of them displayed the exact view from the front door of my childhood home.

This freakishness is provided courtesy of Google Maps Street View and some clever manipulation of the images to keep them looking fluid, rather than a bunch of disconnected snapshots. Later, a window asked me to write a letter to my childhood self, and I was able to both type and draw letters that sprouted trippy tendrils of black while the music and other video windows played on.

In all, it was a pretty impressive display that ran well on my five-year-old Dell gaming laptop. Unfortunately, the only release-level browser it works with is Chrome. Firefox 3.x and IE8 don't have sufficient HTML5 support, though that's changing soon: IE9 and Firefox 4, both in initial beta-testing now, will offer dramatically improved support for the emerging Web standard. (I tested it on the beta of Firefox 4, and while it loaded more slowly and had a couple stutters, it worked. I'll hold off testing it on IE9 until Microsoft releases a full browser beta later in September--right now, the preview versions are only basic shells.)

The same video could probably have been programmed in Adobe Systems' Flash format and worked in any browser, but it might have placed a greater load on my PC, (That's open to debate, and it depends on how the app is written and the precise specs of the machine running it). Nonetheless, it's a pretty good advertisement for the promise of HTML5--and an even better advertisement for Google products and technologies. Which, of course, was the real point.

The song itself, "We Used To Wait," was not bad, but it didn't grip me enough to want to run out and buy the album. That has been my reaction to most of the new Arcade Fire album so far, though I like the idea of a concept album about the suburbs and the fact they released it on vinyl.