Eight years after development started HTML5 is gradually taking over the internet, and with it comes an important step forward for mobile web browsers. For those that don't already know, HTML5 is the latest version of the language used to write web pages. It introduces a wide array of new features, some of which have caused controversy among those who'll have to work with it, but one in particular is going to make browsing on your phone a much richer experience. It's called Video.
It used to be that if you wanted to watch a video on the web, odds are you'd use Flash. That was bad news for phones, since Flash was only optimised for mobile browsers last year, and the results weren't impressive. With HTML5 you don't need a plug-in; you can watch what you like, on whatever device you like. Yes, even the iPhone. There's still a fierce debate over which is the better media player, but Adobe seem to have accepted defeat in the phone market. They've announced that development has stopped on Flash for mobile.
It's not just dancing cats on YouTube that benefit from this. Developers of mobile applications and games will be able to reach a wider audience much more easily by using HTML5. Native apps may still be quicker, and that's fine for the big hitters of the industry, but small companies don't have the resources to make several separate versions of their products. If they want to reach the whole world they need to use a language that the whole world recognises, and Video seems to be an excellent solution.
Of course not every mobile browser has caught up yet. Windows, Android, and iOS mobile browsers are fully compatible with Video, but some feature mobile browsers are lagging behind. That's not too much to worry about though; where Microsoft, Google and Apple lead, others will follow. The fact that Flash for mobile is dead in the water will only speed up the process, and as it becomes more widely used by developers it will start to be too big to ignore.
Video is here to stay, and there's no doubt it's going to improve the mobile web experience. Of course HTML5 has a lot of other new features that could make the same claim, like the AppCache which lets web applications store data on the phone or the advanced tools for making online forms that can be easily filled in on your mobile, but none of them have the potential impact of Video. Give it a few years and we'll wonder how we ever managed without it.