How to Optimize for HTML5 Video Streaming & HTML5 Video Tag [2023 Update]
If you’re new to adaptive streaming, you may wonder: what’s all the fuss about HTML5 video streaming?
Overall, HTML5 video streaming enables the manipulation of multimedia content using <audio> and <video> HTML tags. Using the <video> tag creates a native HTML5 video player and allows additional options for customizing and displaying video content.
That may seem technical and confusing, but luckily, live-streaming video is now more accessible than ever for professionals who aren’t quite tech-savvy.
This article will cover HTML5 video streaming and its key applications. Then, we’ll briefly review HTML5 video players and cover three ways to embed your video content on a website. These methods include direct embedding via an HTML5 video tag, developing your player, and using an existing player.
To get started, let’s look at some background on the origins of HTML5 video streaming.
Table of Contents
- What Is HTML5 Video Streaming and How Does It Work?
- What Is an HTML5 Video Player?
- Benefits of HTML5 Video Streaming
- Challenges of HTML5 Video Streaming
- HLS Protocol for HTML5 Video Streaming
- How to Embed a Player for HTML5 Streaming
- 1. Embed a Video with HTML5
- 2. Develop Your HTML5 Player
- 3. Use an Existing HTML5 Player
- How to Optimize an HTML5 Video Stream Tag
- How to Add a Background Video to HTML5
- Additional HTML5 Tags for Improved Streaming
What Is HTML5 Video Streaming and How Does It Work?
Cideo steraming allows users to watch videos over the internet.
During the early 1990s, when the Internet was still in its infancy, the first web browsers only supported static HTML pages. These pages were simple text documents with hyperlinks that allowed users to navigate from one page to another.
Around 1994, the first images appeared on websites as the <img> HTML tag was introduced.
Then, in 1995, audio and HTML video tags were create d, which allowed web developers to embed multimedia content on their websites.
However, it wasn’t until 2010 that HTML5 video streaming became widely adopted. That’s because earlier versions of HTML didn’t support the HTML video tag, and browsers couldn’t play videos without a plugin like Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft Silverlight.
When HTML5 was released, it included a new <video> tag that allowed browsers to play videos without the need for any plugins natively. HTML5 also introduced several other features that made developing websites and web applications more accessible.
Some of the benefits of improved software technology include the following:
- Better video quality
- Reduced buffering
- More functional video player
Something else you need to know is HTML5 multicast video streaming, a type of live streaming that uses the HTML5 <video> tag to send a single video stream to multiple viewers. With the help of a CDN, live streaming HTML5 video, you can stream your content to viewers worldwide.
There are three methods for online video streaming:
- Proprietary format
- Intermediate player
- HTML5 video streaming
Let’s check them out.
1. Using a Proprietary Format
The first method of online video streaming was common in the early days of the internet but is pretty much obsolete now. Nevertheless, it’s essential to mention and review, as it’s a vital part of live streaming history.
With a proprietary format, video content would use a format for streaming videos exclusive to that site. That’s because, in the early days, when broadcasters first started sharing videos via the internet, most web browsers didn’t have any built-in video players.
Instead, websites would use a proprietary format, such as .mov, .rm, or wmv. Then, they would provide their video player and place the video on the web page itself.
Some videos use a dedicated player such as Apple QuickTime for .mov files. However, sharing videos was difficult in the early days of video streaming.
2. Using an Intermediate Player
YouTube came onto the scene in 2005 and has remained popular ever since. YouTube helped mainstream streaming video, and it’s an excellent example of a popular website that uses an intermediate player.
When users upload a video file to YouTube, viewers access the content through YouTube’s embedded player. Likewise, viewers can share the audio and video content via a YouTube code.
However, modern browsers now include embedded video players of their own. That means that it’s not always necessary for a website to provide the player, so the use of intermediate players is declining.
3. Using HTML5 Video Streaming
The most modern method of video streaming is HTML5 video streaming. It’s the most innovative approach to streaming video.
With HTML5 video streaming, the website hosting the content uses native HTTP to stream the media to viewers directly.
Content tags (e.g., HTML <video> tag) are part of the HTML code.
Thus, using the HTML <video> tag creates your browser’s native HTML5 video player. These tags guide the HTTP protocol on what to do with this content. For example, HTTP displays the text, and an audio player plays audio content. That’s how HTML5 video streaming works and how you can embed a video with HTML5 using native HTTP.
Also, HTML tags have various attributes, or parameters, which provide further detail on how to present the content. For example, with the <img> tag, you can specify the size of the image.
More recently, HTML5 has expanded the media capabilities of basic HTML.
For example, enhancements to the <img> tag and the new <video> tag provide content creators with more flexibility and ease in presenting media content. In addition, understanding different HTML video tags allows for more customization with your presentation.
This flexibility of HTML video tags allows broadcasters to deliver media without worrying about which browser a given visitor uses.
What Is an HTML5 Video Player?
HTML5 video players have revolutionized the way we stream video.
For years, Adobe’s Flash video player was the primary method of delivering video via the internet. However, Flash is now considered an outdated streaming protocol. Most modern browsers, such as Chrome, stopped supporting the Adobe Flash player at the end of 2022.
Part of why Adobe Flash player became obsolete is because it isn’t supported on mobile devices. With most people accessing the internet through mobile devices, this helped to contribute to the demise of Adobe Flash player. The most common video streaming technology is now HTML5 video players and HLS delivery streaming protocols.
HTML5 is a more modern streaming solution. It can be used to stream videos directly from a website. One of the biggest advantages of HTML5 is that it supports mobile streaming on all devices.
HTML5 video streaming provides a simpler way to use video on web pages. Before its publication as a markup language in 2014, videos could only play in a browser with plugins like Flash. By using HTML5, developers no longer worry about which browser or extension their visitors use, allowing for greater video access.
Additionally, HTML5 simplifies video delivery by providing support for various attributes, elements, and tags to assist with the structure of your webpage.
These support features include articles, sections, and multimedia tags that support adding video and audio formats to your content.
Benefits of HTML5 Video Streaming
With HTML5, web developers can now add video and audio to a web page without plugins. That has numerous benefits, including:
- Reduced Development Time and Costs: Previously, different plugins had to be used for different browsers. That required more development time to ensure compatibility with popular browsers. All major browsers support HTML5, so development time is reduced.
- Increased Mobile Support: One of the main benefits of using HTML5 is that it supports mobile devices. That wasn’t possible with Flash, so HTML5 provides better access to video streaming on all devices.
- Fewer Resources: HTML5 doesn’t require additional plugins or software, unlike other video streaming solutions. That means it uses fewer resources, which benefits both users and developers.
- Improved Accessibility: Using HTML5 video tags also provides better support for people with disabilities. For example, screen readers can now access video content previously hidden in Flash videos.
- Simple to Add Apps/Tools/Links: Adding apps and links is much easier and quicker when using an HTML5 video player. That’s because you don’t have to worry about which browser your visitors are using.
- Faster Rendering and Processing: HTML5 videos load faster than Flash videos since they don’t need to be downloaded first. That results in less waiting time for users and less strain on servers.
HTML5 video is so accessible most people don’t even realize they are using it. As a result, it has become the video player of choice.
Challenges Of HTML5 Video Streaming
While HTML5 streaming has numerous benefits for broadcasters and viewers alike, it’s not without its shortcomings.
For one, HTML5 needs a specific format and protocol to function. As mentioned earlier, one format that HTML-5 uses and has been gaining popularity is Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTPS, or MPEG-DASH.
Unfortunately, not all browsers and devices natively support MPEG-DASH. So, you may need a transcoder to convert your stream to other formats like HLS or RTMP.
Another challenge is that when live streaming with HTML5, you may require additional bandwidth and resources to ensure high-quality streams. This makes this type of streaming more costly compared to plug-in-based streaming.
HLS Protocol for HTML5 Video Streaming
In recent years, HLS has become a common protocol for streaming video over HTML5 players.
If you’re new to the term, HLS is an acronym for HTTP Live Streaming. HLS is a media streaming protocol that delivers visual and audio media to viewers online.
These technological advancements have been advantageous for both broadcasters and viewers. In particular, broadcasters can modify both HTML5 and HLS to their specifications. Additionally, these protocols are safer, more reliable, and faster than earlier technologies.
First launched by Apple in 2009, broadcasters often prefer HLS streaming for its broad support on multiple browsers and devices.
Other older protocols include:
- RTMP stands for Real-Time Messaging Protocol. It’s a proprietary protocol developed by Adobe that was commonly used for streaming audio and video data.
- HDS is an acronym for HTTP Dynamic Streaming. It’s similar to HLS but was developed by Adobe as a part of the Flash platform.
- MSS is an acronym for Microsoft Smooth Streaming. It’s a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft and was commonly used in Silverlight applications.
- MPEG-Dash is a more recent protocol that’s based on ISO standardization.
While HLS is the most widely used streaming protocol, MPEG-Dash is gaining popularity due to its standardized format.
You can read more about HLS in general and HLS streaming with an HTML5 video player in our post on HLS streaming protocols.
How to Embed a Player for HTML5 Streaming
Now that you understand the history and purpose of HTML5 video players, we’ll dive into a few approaches to HTML5 streaming.
To begin, let’s discuss the three main ways to embed videos on your website:
- Use the HTML5 <video> tag directly in your browser
- Create your player
- Choose a ready-made HTML5 player
- Embed a Video with HTML5
1. Embed a Video with HTML5
When you’re setting up HTML5 video streaming on your website, you must declare the following:
- A <video> tag
- The URL of the video
- Any stylistic requirements you might want to customize (for a more appealing video player than the standard player)
*Note: It’s important to note that the <video> tag is a simple piece of code you can add to your web pages.
The standard <video> tag provides the following functionality:
- Specify the width and height of the player
- Display or hide video controls, including play/pause, volume, full-screen toggle, and seek slider
- Set a poster image to display while the video is downloading or not to play
- Provide a set of videos in different HTML5 video formats so that each browser can play a format it supports
- Include closed-caption subtitles or captions in multiple languages
- Tell the browser whether to start downloading the video when the page loads or only when the user presses “Play.”
- Control autoplay settings
- Decide whether to play content once or in a loop.
- Indicate if you’d like to play the video without sound (muted). For example, automated videos on Facebook display the mute option overlaid on the video.
*Note: We’d like to point out that although the HTML5 <video> tag is considered the most widely supported video player element, not every version of every browser supports it.
Suppose users visit your site using earlier versions than the following browsers. In that case, they won’t be able to watch any videos displayed using HTML5:
- Chrome: Version 4.0
- MicrosoftExplorer (predecessor to Edge): Version 9.0
- Mozilla Firefox: Version 3.5
- Safari: Version 4.0
- Opera: Version 10.5
It’s also important to note that HTML5 video streaming requires technical knowledge and dedicated resources. Therefore, it’s best to opt for an existing HTML5 player if you lack the knowledge to manipulate HTML5 code, but we’ll discuss this option further in this post.
2. Develop Your HTML5 Player
Another option for embedding video content on your website is via your HTML5 video player. However, building a custom HTML5 video player requires a combination of HTML and CSS coding. It also requires knowledge of the HTML5 Media API.
The player’s appearance is basic without specifying any code that styles the HTML5 video player. It also depends on the browser from which the video plays.
Providing a consistent interface for HTML5 video streaming on your site is also helpful for branding and visual presentation.
Again, it’s important to note that HTML5 video streaming is a reasonably technical option suitable for people with requisite coding knowledge. Otherwise, an existing HTML5 player built by a dedicated team through a live-streaming API is a better option if you lack the technical know-how.
3. Use an Existing HTML5 Player
We highly recommend using an existing HTML5 player if you’re new to broadcasting.
As mentioned above, many HTML5 players already exist and can be easily customized by broadcasters to represent their brand without deep technical knowledge. Moreover, this allows users who don’t have the technical knowledge for HTML5 video streaming to broadcast their chosen video still.
Here are some viable video players available today:
- Some HTML5 players use VideoJS as their base and add more functionality to the primary player. An example is the Dacast all-device video player, which offers functionality to stream live video and a customizable player skin.
- JW Player is a for-pay HTML5 player that supports 4K video and adaptive bitrate streaming.
- Other solutions include Flow Player, jPlayer, and Mediaelement.js.
Native HTML5 video doesn’t support RTMP app streaming or HDS protocols. However, JW does support these two protocols. So, as mentioned above, if you plan to use a solely HTML5 video player, HLS is probably the best protocol for you.
We’d also like to point out that some existing HTML5 video players, including the one from Dacast, are built for low-latency streaming. Any video you stream with a Dacast player automatically uses low-latency streaming. So no matter your viewer’s internet connection, they will be able to watch your content.
How to Optimize an HTML5 Video Stream Tag
There are a few ways to get the most out of the HTML5 <video> tag.
The first thing to pay attention to is your format. Using standard formats allows users to play videos easily. MP4 (MPEG-4) is the most widely-used format. However, Ogg and WebM formats are becoming more widely known.
WebM is now supported by recent versions of Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari on OS/X, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 and up (requires WebM MF components). With this development, multiple formats mean easier viewing.
A significant optimization hack in video delivery is to lower the lag time or latency. Today, video is the most popular form of content consumption. Users spend mere seconds waiting for videos to start playing.
Broadcasters will also want to optimize your control settings. Here’s a quick breakdown of a few common settings to pay attention to:
- Physical size and resolution: Set maximum physical size to provide control over uploads and lower lag time. For example, using a 1280×720 frame is usually plenty for most videos.
- Length: Trim videos to capture the most compelling frames.
- Quality and Bitrate: Adjust these settings to decrease file size without significantly impacting perceived HTML5 video quality.
- Video-Codec: Generally, you can use the default settings to normalize and optimize the video for the web. However, in some cases, you want to set the codec to lower the file size manually.
- Compression: Always compress video files before using them on your site.
- Provide fallback options: In case your HTML5 video is not supported on a website or certain devices, provide fallback options for better compatibility. For instance, you could provide a static image with a link to download the videos or specify optional formats for specific browsers.
How to Add Video Background to HTML5
If you want to engage a first-time visitor on your site, in the best-case scenario, you have 20 seconds. One of the ways to achieve this is by using video backgrounds.
A video background can be a great way to immediately grab your viewer’s attention while providing valuable information about your brand, product, or service.
Video backgrounds can create an immersive experience that draws users into your site when used correctly. However, if not done carefully, they can be highly distracting and significantly increase your page’s load time.
You can add video background HTML to your site using the <video> tag and a few lines of CSS.
First, upload your video to a web-safe format like .mp4. You can use an online converter if necessary.
Next, add the following code to your HTML file between the <head></head> tags:
<video autoplay loop muted>
<source src=”your-video.mp4″ type=”video/mp4″>
And then add the following CSS code to your HTML file between the <style></style> tags:
background: URL(your-image.jpg) no-repeat;
Replace “your-video.mp4” and “your-image.jpg” with the appropriate file names and locations.
You can also add additional video sources by adding more <source> tags between the <video></video> tags in your HTML file. That’s helpful if you want to provide different video versions for different devices.
Conversely, you can use a video hosting platform like Dacast to stream your video instead of hosting it on your servers. That can save you time and money while delivering a better streaming experience to your viewers.
Additional HTML5 Tags for Improved Streaming
The <video> tag is not the only tool in your HTML5 toolbox for optimizing videos. For example, listing the <source> tags along with their corresponding <type> tags in an optimized order can improve your video performance.
That’s demonstrated in this sample HTML5 code for live video streaming:
<video width=”480” controls>
<source scr=”https://myweb.org/webm/video1.webm” type=”video/webm”>
<source scr=”https://myweb.org/mp4/video1.mg4” type=”video/mp4”>
<source scr=”https://myweb.org/ogg/video1.ogv” type=”video/ogv”>
<track kind=”captions” src=”sampleCaption_he.vtt” scrlang=”he”>
Keep in mind that a browser will play the first supported format type. In other words, the first entry in the list is the default. Chrome and Firefox will play the WebM video, while predecessors to Microsoft Edge will skip to the MP4 video.
You should list the most supported and smallest video first to ensure that the file plays by default. Use the HTML5 Video Player to check which format your browser supports.
You may also want to include a <track> tag to provide captions or subtitles for your video. That’s helpful for viewers who are deaf or have hearing difficulties or if you’re streaming a live event in a foreign language.
The <track> tag should include a kind attribute set to “captions” or “subtitles” and an src attribute that points to the .vtt file containing your captions or subtitles.
Use the HTML5 Fullscreen API to provide a better viewing experience for your viewers. That allows them to view your video in full-screen mode without leaving your site.
Using some additional HTML5 tags will help you customize your video player. Here are a few options:
- <width> tag controls the width of the video that plays.
- <controls> tag is a Boolean attribute that allows users to access playback controls.
- <track> tag creates a transcript to increase content accessibility.
- <embed> tag creates a container for external media.
Lastly, if you want the video to start automatically, use the <autoplay> video element.
1. How is HTML5 different from HTML?
Both HTML and HTML5 are hypertext markup languages that coders use to develop webpages primarily. The major difference is that HTML does not support audio and video tags. Conversely, HTML5 is a more recent version of HTML that supports video and audio streaming without needing an external plugin.
2. What does HTML5 stand for?
HTML5 is a programming language that stands for Hypertext Markup Language 5. It’s a sequel to HTML4 that supports video playback, mobile responsiveness, rendering, graphics, and more without needing a plugin like Adobe Flash Player.
3. What is an HTML5 player?
HTML5 players are plugins that receive content from video hosting platforms or content delivery networks using the HTTPS live streaming protocol. They’re highly flexible and compatible, which enables them to play HTML5 videos and audio seamlessly across websites and on different devices including mobile phones.
4. Is HTML5 video player free?
Some HTML5 video players are free (open source web video players) while you’d have to pay for others (commercial web video players).
Open-sourced or free HTML5 video players provide a free source code that programmers can customize to develop their tailor-made version of the player.
5. What are the benefits of using an HTML5 video player?
Here are some benefits of streaming videos using an HTML5 video player.
- HTML5 is supported by all major browsers so there is no longer a need to use different plugins for different browsers.
- HTML5, unlike previous markup languages, supports mobile devices, ensuring that more audiences stream videos.
- These video players require fewer resources. For instance, HTML5 players do not need additional plugins.
- It’s easier to add apps and links when using HTML5 video players.
- HTML5 video players have faster rendering as they do not need to be downloaded first.
To recap, HTML5 video streaming enhances web pages and engages visitors better than text alone. To retain viewers, broadcasters must optimize HTTP live streaming to ensure quick, smooth, and compatible video delivery for viewers. Using HTML5 media tags properly ensures that your content is accessible and keeps visitors returning.
In this article, we’ve defined HTML5 video streaming and video players. We also discussed ways to stream live video on your website via embedding. Additionally, we’ve highlighted the pros and cons of each method.
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