Video sharing site Vimeo has taken the HTML5 plunge one step further with a brand new “universal” embeddable player aimed at mobile devices like the iPhone or the iPad.
Vimeo’s new “Universal Player” is actually capable of serving several different kinds of video formats, but it uses a script to check the browser’s video capabilities. Depending on what the browser can handle, Vimeo may display an HTML5 player, a Flash player or a platform-native player. For users, the playback experience and user interface are the same, regardless of the player being used.
The new embed code, now the default throughout the whole Vimeo site, still serves Flash to desktop browsers, reserving the native options for iPad and iPhone users. But eventually, Vimeo plans to let desktop users in on the HTML5 fun — including perhaps serving WebM videos to Firefox, Chrome and Opera users.
So, if you’re reading this post on an iPad or an iPhone, this movie will launch in a native player wrapped inside the browser’s skin:
Interest in HTML5 video is reaching a fever pitch. It’s being fueled mostly by the iPad and other mobile browsing devices that can’t play Flash. Also, the recent launch of the new WebM video format, and the HTML5 video capabilities being built into the latest browser releases have publishers and video services exploring non-Flash alternatives for their viewers.
Vimeo’s new player builds on the HTML5 video player the company first launched as a beta project back in January. But the rapid growth of HTML5 video on the web has urged Vimeo to push this new player to the fore. Other video sites, most notably YouTube, have also launched their own site-wide non-Flash experiences in the last few months. But in most cases the only way to use the native web video players is to visit the actual website. Vimeo is the first to offer an embeddable native player by default.
Apple released an update to its Safari web browser Monday afternoon. We’ve been testing it for close to a full day, and we’ve found that Safari 5 performs as advertised: It’s faster, more capable and well worth the upgrade.
Safari 5 was launched rather quietly at the end of the first day of the 2010 Worldwide Developer Conference, an event that was dominated by Steve Jobs’ debut of the next iPhone and the new iOS. Safari wasn’t discussed during the morning keynote, but an announcement was made later that afternoon at a web-developer session.
For faster page loads, Safari 5 is implementing DNS pre-fetching. Basically, the browser looks at all the links on the page you’re currently on and fetches the IP addresses of all the linked sites and page assets, preparing itself to make the jump more quickly as soon as you click on a link and begin loading another page. All of this happens in the background. Google Chrome and Firefox do this, too.
At any rate, all of these new features are great to see, as Firefox, Chrome and Opera have supported most or all of these APIs and technologies for a while, and IE9 will support most of them. It also washes away some of the bitter aftertaste left by last week’s PR mess around HTML5 support.
There’s also support for full-screen playback of H.264 videos, and for subtitles — the screenshot at the top shows YouTube’s H.264 player. Apple is touting this as HTML5 video support, but we’d like to point out that while H.264 does make up the bulk of online video, HTML5 doesn’t require videos be H.264. All the other major browsers are backing the new, open source WebM format for video, which we’ve urged Apple to support as well.
One of the most talked-about new features is Safari Reader. A small gray “Reader” button now appears in the URL bar when you land on a news website or blog. Click it, and Safari strips out all of the clutter on the page (ads, widgets, sidebars, headers and footers) and presents just the text in a large typeface, cleanly formatted in a white window that floats, lightbox-style, over a darkened page. It also strings multipage articles together in the same window automatically. It’s intriguing to speculate about how Reader, if widely adopted, will change website-design principles by encouraging cleaner, more readable layouts. Scott Gilbertson explores this idea in detail in his in-depth look at Safari Reader here on Webmonkey.
We may finally have a solution to help open video out of the morass its currently stuck in. Recently, all eyes have been on Google to see if it would open up the VP8 video codec, which it very recently bought the rights to when it acquired software maker On2.
Google will soon make its VP8 video codec open source, we’ve learned from multiple sources. The company is scheduled to officially announce the release at its Google I/O developers conference next month, a source with knowledge of the announcement said. And with that release, Mozilla — maker of the Firefox browser — and Google Chrome are expected to also announce support for HTML5 video playback using the new open codec.
If this actually happens, open video will get a huge boost on the web. It will take a few years for VP8 to gain dominance, given the huge penetration of Flash and H.264, but it’s a significant step forward. Since Google owns YouTube, a major game piece is already in play.
One big question remains — will VP8 videos play on the iPad and iPhone?