File Under: APIs, Browsers, HTML5, Multimedia

New HTML5 Tools Make Your Browser Sing and Dance

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HTML5′s <audio> tag gives you a way to embed audio files directly into a web page without requiring a plug-in. But the audio element could do a lot more than just offer Flash-free inline audio players on your favorite MP3 blogs.

The audio player element could end up fueling a whole new class of web applications — online audio editing suites. Some online audio editors written in Flash already exist, and people are using them to creative ends. But we’re just now starting to see truly amazing audio editors, synthesizers, visualizations and musical creation tools running in the browser without the need for Flash.

To see what it’s possible to do with the HTML5 audio element and some accompanying JavaScript, David Humphrey, Lead of Mozilla Education as the Mozilla Foundation, has been experimenting with audio in Firefox. To cap off his series of experiments Humphrey recently showcased a number of vary impressive Firefox interactive audio experiments on the Mozilla Hacks blog.

The videos (more of which can be seen on the Mozilla blog) highlight possible future webapps: collaborative music creation using multiple browsers, touch-screen audio interfaces, real-time audio analysis software, online mixing boards, beat detection scripts and even an online clone of Brian Eno’s Bloom iPhone app.

The best part about these demos is that, as Humphrey’s says, “this is real code, running in a real browser, and it’s all being done in HTML5 and JavaScript.” Of course the main caveat is that, for some of them to work, you’ll need a patched version of the Firefox development trunk.

The reason is that some of experiments rely on non-standard APIs. In other words, much of what’s happening in these experiments hasn’t been blessed by the W3C just yet. But plenty of what we use on the web right now — XMLHttpRequest anyone? — started out exactly the same way. Technology like this ultimately succeeds only if browser vendors and web developers work together to push it forward.

Thinking you’d really like to see an online version of ProTools? Well, according to Humphrey, “the web is fast enough to do real-time audio processing now, powerful enough and expressive enough to create music.” All that remains is for someone to build it.

If you’d like to experiment with Firefox and audio, have a look at the Mozilla developer documents using audio and video in Firefox.

An example of audio filtering tools:

Amazing, real-time analysis of audio with synchronized 3D graphics:

Photo: Kraftwerk by Andreas Hagstrom, via Wikimedia, CC

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