August 12, 2010
Web pages and their design are laid out using HTML. HTML stands for Hyper Text Mark-up Language. HTML is comprised of ‘tags’ or elements that tell your browser what the different areas of your webpage are. You can use these elements to define paragraph areas, images and their
dimensions and also font sizes, colors and styles etc. There are many HTML elements and a lot of these have varying attributes like width, height, name, etc. This article will not focus on specific HTML elements; our aim is to give you a brief overview of HTML before moving on to
how it has developed into HTML 5.
HTML came to life at the end of 1990. The original HTML, developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, comprised of about 20 elements which were strongly influenced by SGML, Standard Generalized Mark-up Language (The only exception to this was the hyperlink tag that allows links to be placed in web pages).
As the internet became more widespread, users demanded more functionality. This meant a huge development in browser technology and also in HTML. In fact, HTML was developed to version 4.01 before evolving into XHTML which incorporates HTML 4.01 and XML (Extensible Mark-up Language).
With HTML 5 a lot more emphasis has been put on the use of ‘Cascading style sheets’. This means HTML programmers can no longer depend on using ‘tags’ like <font> to style text with color, size, and font type. This now has to be done using ‘Cascading style sheets’ or CSS. The use of CSS means, for example, the text style on a website can be updated or changed with one small change in the CSS rather than having to update or change every <font> tag on every page. In fact, the <font> and <center> tags have been completely dropped.
HTML 5 also introduces various new elements such as <nav>, used to define navigation areas and <footer>, used to define an area at the bottom of a page that will be used as a footer. This article will focus more on the multimedia elements <audio> and <video>.
The HTML 5 <audio> and <video> elements are a fantastic way of standardizing audio and video over the internet. This has been a long time coming. With so many operating systems being used to browse the internet it can be hard to decide what format to use. If we encode a video as a Windows Media File (WMV) it will not play on a Mac unless that user downloads a certain player or plug-in. The same can be said for encoding a video as a QuickTime file. It will play on a Mac but not on a Windows operating system unless a player is downloaded. And now we have so many variations of Linux operating systems being used, choosing an audio or video format that will play on all visitors’ computers is a next to impossible task.
The <audio> and <video> elements in HTML 5 will make choosing multimedia formats a lot easier. We will probably use the OGG format for audio as it is completely open source and patent-free. This format is very similar to MP3, AAC, and VQF. We will probably use the H.264 format for video. This format has already been adopted by Adobe and so can be used in Flash based players. An example of this is YouTube.com. They can now offer HD video online because they have used the H.264 standard. What is interesting about this is that visitors using Windows, Mac, Unix and Linux can view YouTube.com videos without having to download a new player. All that is needed is the Flash plug-in, which is on most internet browsing computers. With the HTML 5 <video> tag we will no longer have to depend on Adobe Flash Media player to play H.264 video as a cross platform solution.
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