Sharovatov’s Weblog

HTML5 video tag and Internet Explorer

Posted in browsers, web-development by sharovatov on 5 June 2009

It’s interesting to see how popular <video> and <audio> tags are getting now. Every browser tries to implement it as soon as it can and shout about it as loud as possible. And now people are even starting blaming IE for being old and not supporting inline video and audio.

The whole situation reminds me of AJAX where original concept was invented by Microsoft (actual ActiveX was shipped with IE5 in 1999), then it was standardised by W3C (in a different way), then implemented by other browsers, and then people started accusing IE for not supporting this new W3C standard.

The same thing is now happening with inline video/audio playback concept, which has been introduced in IE2 in 1995, almost 15 years ago. Yes, 15 years ago, when W3C has been just founded and was still asking MIT/CSAIL to join. And now this functionality is being spec’ed in HTML5 as <video> and <audio> tags. Opera, Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome start supporting <video> and <audio> and are making a loud marketing message of it.

The original concept that was introduced in IE2 (and supported in following versions) was adding a DYNSRC attribute to IMG element:

<img src="cover.gif" dynsrc="clock.avi" controls>

When IE saw dynsrc attribute, it tried loading the movie and playing it. “Controls” attribute made IE show simple playback controls.

This is how it looked like in IE3:


However, in future versions the support for DYNSRC was limited to make developers to switch to other ways (<object>/<embed>/SMIL video). In IE5 no controls were shown, in IE7 DYNSRC ceased at all.

World changes, and now the functionality that nobody’s been using for a decade seems really new and interesting. It’s great that WHATWG is spending time on defining clear standard on how this should work and it’s really cool that Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari already support this draft. Of course, Silverlight supports greater level of RIA, but giving that IE Team is now really focused on following public standards, I hope that in IE9 we’ll have native support for <video>/<audio> as we had native support for XMLHttpRequest in IE7.

But my point is – credit for inline video playback functionality invention should be definitely given to IE2.

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10 Responses

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  1. said, on 8 June 2009 at 4:37 am

    HTML5 video tag and Internet Explorer « Sharovatov’s Weblog…

    Thank you for submitting this cool story – Trackback from…

  2. Walter McGinnis said, on 10 June 2009 at 5:53 am

    It’s not the actual innovation of being able to include audio and video in HTML that is important. Browser vendor specific hacks have been around for a long time as you illustrate. It’s that it is being done in a cross browser standard way, i.e. something everyone agrees upon and is vender neutral (though at this point is only a draft standard).

    This allows content providers to use audio and video without having to tie the implementation to only one particular browser. That is a big deal for content providers. The fact that HTML 5′s audio/video are being adopted in practice by major browsers gives indication that these will become an actual standard and the era of browser or plugin specific hacks to present audio and video will come to an end.

    Here’s a good ArsTechnica article on it:

  3. sharovatov said, on 10 June 2009 at 8:51 am

    @Walter McGinnis

    I completely agree that this is important to have a standardised way to embed inline video (and to control it from javascript). As I’ve said, it’s great that HTML5 gives us such a way and I really hope it gets supported in IE9.

    The main thing I wanted to say was that we have to give credit to IE team for introducing this concept and providing the first implementation.

  4. jaw said, on 9 August 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Good web developers never used the tags you mention because they were vendor-specific (in the beginning there was netscape and IE, remember?), and the object tags required codecs to be installed on the client computer, even worse. Using those equals bad web site design. Who invented it first doesn’t matter, Microsoft never makes anything that is compatible with anything else even now that they had a very good chance. Instead they’re bashing everyone by trying to force them into silverlight. Flash is per definition even as bad as it’s closed/proprietary so the video tags (relying on a format as open as HTML).

  5. e,kedyftdhehehze said, on 26 December 2009 at 7:23 pm

    Whether or not IE invented their own way of showing video doesn’t matter. What matter is that there appears a standardized way to do something, agreed by a neutral party, that all browsers can implement. One vendor can’t dictate a standard, because everyone else would do it different. The problem at this moment is that Microsoft is slower than everyone else to implement open standards. Examples: SVG support, support for inline base64 images in HTML, and now audio and video. Big powerful vendors don’t like implementing open standards, they want to have full control themselves and would like everyone to use only THEIR product with THEIR OWN standard. But the problem with that is that this is only good for the vendor, not for the consumers in the long term.

  6. e,kedyftdhehehze said, on 26 December 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Also, it’s not so that the idea of putting video in html is stunningly original or unexpected, and at the time IE had it it was probably not feasable over internet connections and that is why it probably didn’t get that much attention.

  7. sharovatov said, on 30 December 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Hi e,kedyftdhehehze

    Whether or not IE invented their own way of showing video doesn’t matter. What matter is that there appears a standardized way to do something, agreed by a neutral party, that all browsers can implement. One vendor can’t dictate a standard, because everyone else would do it different.

    Well, one vendor can’t “dictate” a standard, but it can certainly create an idea for the standard, or influence a standard a lot. Microsoft invented most of the modern “web2.0″ stuff at the time when most of “web2.0-developers” were attending school. Should I remind you about ajax, wysiwyg, webfonts, embedded video/audio? All this was invented by MS, and it’s great they did it.

    However, I do agree standardisation is important – it allows other players to “catch up” and play on the same ground. And also, when standards are implemented properly across multiple browsers, client-side developers’ life gets much easier. Do you remember the times of “browser war II” of IE and Netscape 4? Did you have fun supporting IE5.01, 5.5, 6.0 and Opera7 in one project? It was interesting, but it took too much time to do things (or maintain the code) in a proper crossbrowser mode. Now I’m developing in IE8/Fx, then drop in few well-known workarounds for IE6/7, then fixing few bugs in Opera10 and Chrome, and open up Safari just to run the tests.So yeah, standards are definitely a good thing.

    Anyway – my point is – if someone invented a technology – people should know that. If it’s standardised – awesome – let’s try to make everyone follow the standard so that it’s easier for us developers to deliver functionality.

  8. Mikkel Christensen said, on 19 February 2010 at 8:42 am

    I think you are still missing the point. The new step forward that people are making a fuss about is not the concept of showing video in a browser. This concept has been around for a long time.
    The big new thing is that a standardized, browser vendor neutral way of doing it is arriving. This is a huge step for content providers.
    Microsoft has never done anything like this. All they have done is to suggest proprietary ways of doing it with their software only.
    Again, the importance is not in the concept of showing video, the important thing is STANDARDIZING it! And no credit goes to Microsoft in this regard.
    Microsoft has a major market share of the browser market and therefore has the power to either support or inhibit new standards. By being slow to implement new open standards, they are actively working against them.

  9. dzs said, on 20 March 2010 at 2:25 pm

    OK! But will it support any free codecs (Theora/Vorbis) or just proprietary (h.264, mp3)???

  10. sharovatov said, on 20 March 2010 at 8:20 pm

    If you mean IE9 which will have native HTML5 support, then answer is H.264 – it comes with Windows OS anyway (and as all tests show, it provides better quality)

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