Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

With a Big Push From Apple, HTML5 Video Wins the Web (But Not Completely)

Remember the big Apple vs. everyone else video-format war from last spring? When Apple was pushing the HTML5 standard it wanted to use for video on the iPhone and iPad, instead of Adobe’s Flash?

No one seems to spend much time talking about it anymore. For good reason: In large part because Steve Jobs insisted on it, “online video” increasingly means “HTML5-compatible.” There’s not much to debate anymore.

Video search engine MeFeedia, for instance, says that 54 percent of Web video is now compatible with HTML5. That’s more than double the tally the company had back in May–less than six months ago. And because MeFeedia’s numbers include old archival stuff that most people don’t watch, as well as big troves of Chinese video you’re unlikely to see, the practical number for most Web surfers is much higher.

Then again, it isn’t hard to find Web video that isn’t compatible with your iPad or iPhone–or your Android handset from Google, either. And once you do, the fact that the clip is in the statistical minority won’t make you feel any better. Even some sites that Apple says are “iPad-ready,” like the New York Times, have plenty of video that won’t work on Apple’s device or any other HMTL5 player.

MeFeedia highlights these HTML5 holdouts:

  • Full episodes from the major TV Networks (including Hulu)
  • Most cable network content, particularly long-form video
  • Metacafe, MySpace Video, 5min
  • Live video sites such as Ustream and Justin.tv
  • International sites such as Tu.tv, Youku, and Sevenload

But as the Hulu example shows us quite clearly, the HTML5 gaps that exist today are usually there because of business reasons, not technical ones: Hulu is quite happy to provide you with HTML5 video on your iPad–if you’re willing to pay (something) for a Hulu Plus subscription.

So, sorry iPad users (and yes, international visitors on good old-fashioned PCs)–you won’t be able to see this clip:


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald