Google Rallies Troops Around HTML5 At Google I/O

Adobe, Mozilla, Opera and a variety of other industry players kicked off the Google I/O conference Wednesday pledging their devotion to HTML5, and support for the royalty-free VP8 codec and WebM format available free to anyone. The video format, billed as a technology that will revolutionize online video, got a nod from the magazine Sports Illustrated. But it's getting nods from advertising and marketing agencies, too.

HTML5 gives advertisers multiplatform support. The campaign will play back on an iPad, iPhone, Android phone, desktop and Internet-enabled televisions. It also enables developers to create online games. Agencies won't need to develop 19 formats to support just as many campaigns. If the format takes off and is widely adopted, it will enable campaigns to easily work across devices.

Some devices do not support Flash or Silverlight today. Apple, however, does support a version of the new codec called H264. Today, HTML5 on YouTube is a TestTube experiment. It does not support ads at this time.

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What's in it for publishers? Evidently, support for paid-content subscription models online. Terry McDonell, editor at Sports Illustrated, demonstrated a magazine application in development that featured video running within a frame of text. It looks similar to a magazine with rich video running inside the page where you might see a still photo. Adding an addendum to the famous Field of Dreams quote "if you build it they will come," McDonell says the online publication must be built open, well-edited, searchable, social, and available everywhere. "If we do that we can charge for it," he says.

Despite the obvious reasons to rejoice, some industry executives believe the advertising and marketing industries can expect to experience little chaos near-term, before things settle down. "We're building towers on shifting sand," says David Dudas, vice president of product development at Sorenson Media, which pioneered codecs that provide the backbone for Apple QuickTime, Macromedia, now Adobe, Flash and YouTube, along with the encoding software for high-quality online video. "Agencies will need to learn how to develop around the format to take advantage of it. Frankly, I think that will become a challenge because everything changes so rapidly," says Dudas.

This alternative to Flash should cut development costs for agencies trying to create and manage campaigns for clients, according to Peter Csathy, chief executive officer at Sorenson Media. The format will provide instantaneous playback and low power consumption and become much more efficient, he says. This matters as agencies try to deliver campaigns to everyone everywhere on a variety of platforms.

Sorenson, along with others like Adobe, supports Google's initiative to develop and provide support. Kevin Lynch, Adobe chief technology officer, told Google I/O attendees that Adobe has been working with Google on the format. He demonstrated an HTML 5 capability available through the extension for the Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 platform, pointing to a multi-screen preview that lets the user view across different devices to quickly optimize one site for multiple screens.

HTML5 is important for two reasons, according to Sean O'Brien, director of technology and senior vice president at MRM Worldwide. "New elements like video and canvas allow native support for richer experiences, whereas Flash, Silverlight, or other plug-ins might be necessary," he says. "Add geo-location to that and you can see how it changes what a Web site can deliver, especially for mobile applications."

Second, the elements are more semantic in nature, such as article, section, and address. These help platforms, browsers and other technologies understand exactly what content exists on a page and therefore will help create systems that use the content in other more useful ways, O'Brien says.

Agencies must rely on pristine video quality in ads or Web pages to properly represent a brand's product, as well as the ability to optimize Web pages. With a variety of devices coming online, advertisers and their agency partners will want one video format that will play on the iPad, computer and mobile devices -- something that is not available today.

With the anticipation of HTML5 growing within the search engine optimization (SEO) community, it is important to keep clients informed of what actions to take from a development perspective, according to Sean Stahlman, senior SEO engineer at Razorfish. Proper site development can help maintain and increase organic search performance and optimization of digital assets. Overall, HTML5 will improve search engines' understanding of the structure of a Web site and provide increased accessibility.

Today, Web pages are constructed using "div" tags to organize content, specifically navigational components and content elements that don't depict the meaning of the information contained within them. Stahlman explains that HTML5 will allow content to be organized and tagged to inform search engine crawlers of the relationship within a Web page by using nav, article, section and footer tags among many others.

Stahlman explains that the new HTML5 tags such as "header" will allow for the categorization of content and links, no longer restricting developers to the existing h1 through h6 tags. Alternate content enhancements will eliminate the need for SWFObject or search engine-friendly alternate content.

"These improvements provide increased optimization techniques for rich media, videos and audio tracks, enabling the inclusion of information that describes those elements," Stahlman says. "Specific tags such as "details" provide the ability to make product information accessible to a search engines without it being displayed to users."

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