HTML5: Standardize on MP4 (mostly)

Posted by Ed Gipple on Jan 20, 2014 3:01:00 PM

One of the most significant issues holding back wide deployment of HTML5-compatible video was the disparity of support between browsers. Back in 2011, we opined on the best approach to deliver video online which, at that time, was using Flash.

Oh how things have changed.

About a year later, we furthered our thoughts on web-delivered video noting how the HTML5 movement had made solid progress.

And so now, again about a year later, we find that with Cisco’s recent contribution of their h.264 codec to the open-source community, Mozilla now has a way to integrate that codec support into their browsers (in a away they are comfortable with).

So the overall outcome? All major browsers now support MP4/h.264 video.

Huzzah! (?)

Finally no more reason for web video to be output to multiple versions (again)…unless you find dogmatic or perceptive reasons to… Otherwise, one MP4/h.264 source file should suffice for all current browsers across all (or at least most) devices.

See this page on the JWPlayer (formerly ‘Longtail Video’) website, specifically #2 “Media Formats”). Below is a screenshot of that section, for posterity, as that page is updated regularly by the good folks maintaining that site.

Now for the next big thing…a standard for support true-streaming video via HTTP! ‘Progressive Downloading’ of video works now – link to a video and it’ll start downloading to your device, and the device player will likely start playing that video back as soon as it can…
…but you can’t skip ahead and have the video quickly pickup at that point; to do so requires ‘true’ (“Adaptive”) streaming capabilities – like from a media server. Adobe’s RTMP protocol handled that well during the reign of Flash video. Now with web video (i.e. MP4), what’s the alternative?

There’s nothing standardized yet but ‘HTTP Live Streaming’ (“HLS”), developed by Apple, seems to have the lead…though there are several potential streaming protocol options integrated with a variety of media servers and end-clients. So until a ‘standard’ is determined, and that standard integrated into the various browsers and operating systems…well, there’s still a wait involved with adaptive streaming (and DRM). For now, barring any of those requirements for a given project, we’ll be settling on a general MP4/h.264 standard for our projects in most cases. How about you?

Tags: HTML5