The idea behind HTML 5 was a good one: make sound and video clips a part of standard HTML code that anyone can use on any platform without having to use Adobe’s proprietary Flash plug-in. Great! Long overdue, in my opinion.
Then, sadly, everything went wrong.
I already knew that the video tag in HTML 5 was a complete train-wreck. Some browser manufacturers had decided to support H.264, others Ogg Theora, and then Google came along and started pushing WebM. But that’s video, something where new codecs are still being created and the state of the art is still very much in flux. I could forgive things for not being all sorted out.
Audio, I thought, would be trivial. So when it came time to include a podcast playback control in my Monarch blog engine (you’re reading through it right now!) I decided to test out HTML 5’s audio support to see how well it would work.
The answer is worse than not at all.
Internet Explorer 8, of course, ignores the tag and displays nothing, but that’s forgivable because honestly, who uses IE any more? Only dinosaurs and old people who really like things to be extra-slow. IE9 will supposedly support it, assuming the sun hasn’t become a red giant and consumed all life on Earth by the time it is released.
Firefox, on the other hand, commits an even more unforgivable sin: it CLAIMS to support it, but then won’t play MP3 files! Ogg Vorbis only! Look, Mozilla people, I understand this Noble Crusade For No Patents in Codecs, but MP3 is supported by every other sound playback system in the entire history of time. Five dollar portable music players support it. I think my breakfast cereal supports it. This is ridiculous!
Now, we get to Chrome. Great browser, Chrome. Supports HTML 5 audio tags and plays back MP3s. Great, right?
Yeah, until you put more than one on a single page. Then it tries to play them all at once, ignoring the autoplay settings, and freezes the entire web page. (EDIT: It's worse than that, actually. It freezes the ENTIRE BROWSER! Not even sandboxing can save it!) Great, Chrome. Nice job.
I downloaded a Flash audio player (the same one that the audio module in my old blog running Drupal used) and everything ran fine. Multiple instances, no problem. Runs on every browser, too, except the iPhone/iPad, which don’t support Flash.
The idea of replacing Flash is a good one. It was neat seeing the Knotty Geeks podcasts load up on my iPad in a web page and being able to play them. But freezing Chrome and not working on Firefox is a complete deal-breaker, and this doesn’t show any signs of improving any time soon.
Flash is here to stay for the time being, folks.