Are You Ready for a Flash-Free Future?
Regardless of how fast our internet connections get, it still seems that we're perpetually waiting for our digital media -- websites, videos, pictures, music -- to load. It's a twisted feedback loop: faster broadband begets bigger and bigger file sizes. All of which makes accessing that Flash-heavy product microsite a perpetual exercise in patience.
It wasn't supposed to work out this way. The migration from dial-up to broadband promised instantaneous access to the web. So much so that earlier this year the preloader -- that ubiquitous status message and animation that plays before a site loads -- looked on its way to becoming extinct and was given its own museum, PrettyLoaded.
But fans of the preloader should fear not. Peruse most recent Favourite Website Awards' (FWA) sites-of-the-day and you will still find your self waiting -- whether you are surfing on a T1, cable connection or middling DSL line. Funny how we still as an industry haven't recognized that speed is the killer app of the internet era.
How much does speed matter online? Ask Google's Marisa Mayer who recently released findings that a page-load delay of 400 milliseconds -- about the blink of an eye -- can drive down usage. That fraction of a delay translated to a 1% reduction in Google's search query volume and millions of dollars in lost revenue. Imagine what a load time of 7 to 8 seconds could mean for the usage of a marketer's Flash-enabled microsite?
HTML 5 and Open Video just may be the technologies that we've been waiting for to deliver a faster and more open internet.
These new coding standards (which won't formally be ratified by the W3C for quite some time) are getting early support from Mozilla's latest Firefox browser 3.5, Google's Chrome, Opera and Apple's Safari 4 -- and enabling a host of new, faster web experiences. Here's a taste:
IO 9Elements HTML 5 Canvas Experiment
Choose Your Own HTML 5 Adventure
Daily Motion's Open Video Demo
One of the best examples of Open Video, Daily Motion's HTML 5 Video Demo Player eschews Flash for the new HTML 5 video tag. The video is seamlessly integrated into the code of the page, and users are able to rotate, pop a preview player, skin and even add effects to the video itself. Daily Motion has gone one-step further in supporting the standard and released a "Pre Beta" site that features all open video content.
There are a host of other, smaller noteworthy demos worth checking out as well. Paul Roget's Dynamic Content Injection is a nifty way to see how video can start to be played with in code form and Remy Sharp's Drag and Drop and Drag Anything are both quite nice too.
Of course, we are in the very early days of HTML 5 and Open Video. Some believe that we won't see widespread adoption of HTML 5 until 2012 and the W3C won't officially ratify it until, maybe, 2020(!). But those estimates seem far too conservative. Much progress has already been made and nothing needs to be made official before HTML 5 is widely adopted and supported.
More tellingly, HTML 5 may gain quicker traction on mobile devices. Today's Apple's iPhone and Google's Android OS are now supporting HTML 5, not Flash. In fact, some of the demos highlighted earlier currently work on the iPhone today. In the not too distant future publishers will most likely opt to create mobile sites in HTML 5 to deliver rich experiences on mobile browsers (ala today's web) -- versus developing and supporting variations of apps across a range of handsets and platforms.
For marketers, content creators and developers, moving to HTML 5 and Open Video sooner than later makes good sense. The technology will allow digital experiences to be delivered more quickly, shared more widely and discovered more freely almost instantly. And with Google sounding a call to arms with its "Let's Make The Web Faster" campaign it's not hard to imagine a future where we'll flip through web pages, apps and rich media as quickly and easily as we turn pages in a magazine or flip channels on our television.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Garrick Schmitt is group VP-experience planning at Razorfish and the agency's global lead for User Experience. He publishes FEED, Razorfish's annual consumer experience report and in his spare time flails about on Twitter @gschmitt.