Original Photo from <a href='http://www.alistapart.com/store/tshirt-xhtmlfist'>http://www.alistapart.com/store/tshirt-xhtmlfist</a>There is some hope among the people who want open standards on the web that HTML5 is going to be their savior. In fact, web is built entirely on top of open protocols and technology and HTML 5 is the natural next step to keep web open to all. Particularly, people saw the use of HTML5 for video as a solution to their Adobe flash problems. HTML5 video is interoperable with HTML web content and can be manipulated by CSS3 and Javascript which can effectively control the playback. The advantage of having such an interoperable technology is that the video can now be integrated to a website with a player that can be easily made to match the look and feel of the site. This increases the user experience tremendously and makes the video viewing experience more seamless. When Youtube announced HTML5 videos, many in the open web community rejoiced and thought soon the world media will embrace HTML5 in a big way. However, the adoption is much slower than what open evangelists expected and part of the reason appears to be issues related to monetization.

For starters, let us take a moment and see the pros and cons of HTML5 with respect to web based video services.
  • Vendor neutral and open standards based
  • Will ensure open web principles
  • Highly interoperable with web content
  • As pointed out in the first point, absolutely no vendor lockin
  • Seamless user experience
  • Still not mature and incomplete too
  • Non cooperation from browser vendors. Microsoft is slow to adopt standards and Apple is trying to push their own proprietary implementation as the right one for viewing HTML5 content
  • Problems associated with a seamless integration of advertising
  • Problems associated with protecting videos for pay (rather, should I say lack of draconian DRM?)
  • Issues related to accessibility (like closed captioning)
  • Lack of support of HTML5 video tag in certain mobile browsers
  • Lack of consensus over codecs
However, some of these cons will go away in the near future but they are still problems for content providers looking for ways to use HTML5 in their business. 
Yesterday, Erik Huggers, Director of BBC Future Media & Technology, wrote a blog post explaining BBC’s position and why they are still using Flash. In short, his response is “HTML5 is not ready for primetime”.
The fact is that there’s still a lot of work to be done on HTML5 before we can integrate it fully into our products. As things stand I have concerns about HTML5’s ability to deliver on the vision of a single open browser standard which goes beyond the whole debate around video playback.
He points out some of the reasons behind his take on HTML5 in the same post.
Not too long ago some browser vendors were showcasing proprietary HTML5 implementations; which in my view threaten to undermine the fundamental promise. Recent activity in the HTML5 Working Group and the apparent split between W3C and WhatWG suggests HTML5 might not be on the path we expect, or deliver what I believe our industry requires. Despite grand overtures from Microsoft toward HTML5 support, their new browser is yet to ship and so the jury is out. The tension between individual motivation and collective consensus has brought an end to many noble causes in the past, and here, the pace of progress appears to be slowing on bringing HTML5 to a ratified state. History suggests that multiple competing proprietary standards lead to a winner-takes-all scenario, with one proprietary standard at the top of the stack, which is not where most of us want to be…
Though Mr. Huggers post could be related to problems they are facing with the ability to monetize well with HTML5, it does raise a valid question on the dangers posed by the push and pull of different browser vendors on the final form of HTML5. It is time for the working group and community to wake up and ensure complete openness we all have come to expect in HTML5.
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Krishnan Subramanian

Krish dons several avatars including entrepreneur in exile, analyst cum researcher, technology evangelist, blogger, ex-physicist, social/political commentator, etc.. My main focus is research and analysis on various high impact topics in the fields of Open Source, Cloud Computing and the interface between them. I also evangelize Open Source and Cloud Computing in various media outlets, blogs and other public forums. I offer strategic advise to both Cloud Computing and Open Source providers and, also, help other companies take advantage of Open Source and Cloud Computing. In my opinion, Open Source commoditized software and Cloud Computing commoditized computing resources. A combination of these two developments offers a strong competitive advantage to companies of all sizes and shapes. Due to various factors, including fear, the adoption of both Open Source and Cloud Computing are relatively slow in the business sector. So, I take it upon myself to clear any confusion in this regard and educate, enrich and advise users/customers to take advantage of the benefits offered by these technologies. I am also a managing partner in two consulting companies based in India. I blog about Open Source topics at http://open.krishworld.com and Cloud Computing related topics at http://www.cloudave.com.

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