TED.com now available in HTML5, serving many mobile platforms, including iPhone, iPad

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Since TED.com launched in 2006, we’ve always aimed to make TEDTalks work across a wide variety of platforms. Anywhere people watch video, we want them to watch TEDTalks.

In the past year, smartphones have emerged as a major platform for watching video and web content. And while TEDTalks have always been viewable on the phone itself (via our iTunes podcast or independently created iPhone, Windows Mobile and Android apps), we saw a demand to view our website through the phone browser.

For this reason, we’re thrilled to announce that TED.com now supports the HTML5 open standard and the H.264 codec. What it means for you: if you own an iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad — or any smartphone that supports the open HTML5 standard — you can watch TEDTalks right in your browser, and also make comments and rate the talks (though you won’t yet have access to our subtitles). And when you access TED.com from your computer, you’ll still get the same feature-rich playback experience — using the Flash platform — that you always have.

This is just the latest step in evolving TED to reach new audiences and platforms. In a few weeks time, we’ll unveil an application for the iPad, which will create a unique stand-alone viewing experience. We’re also at work on initiatives to reach other platforms, including Symbian, in the next year. Would you like to see TED on a particular platform? Let us know …

After the jump, read the FAQ on HTML5 / H.264 >>Q. What is the big change?
A. Previously, TEDTalks videos on TED.com were only delivered using the Flash platform. Since Flash is not generally available on mobile devices, you could not watch our videos on TED.com through your phone browser. So we modified our site, and now use an HTML5 video player — showing video encoded to the H.264 codec — to deliver video to the majority of mobile devices accessing TED.com. What it means is: Now, on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad running iPhone OS 3.0 or later, you can watch videos on TED.com, using the phone’s web browser. Since Android devices do not yet support HTML5 video in the browser, the experience is slightly different. You will need to click to view in the native video player.

Q. What is HTML5 video? What is H.264?
A. HTML5 video is a new open-source markup language standard that helps content providers deliver rich media on the browser without an external plug-in. Read more about it here. Although HTML5 video is a fairly new technology, adoption is growing rapidly, and we believe it is a great solution for the mobile space. For TED.com, we recognize that we need to be reaching out to our audience on mobile platforms, and HTML5 video was the perfect solution to move forward with. It is quite exciting.

H.264 is a video compression standard frequently used in Blu-ray, television and real-time video conferencing, as well as web video. Read more about it here.

Q. Do you plan on replacing all TEDTalks with HTML5 video / H.264?
A. We have no plans to move away from Flash. This new feature was created to broaden our video distribution reach to areas where Flash isn’t supported. TED fans on platforms that support Flash will still get our feature-rich playback experience using the Flash platform. That said, we are planning to move to the H.264 codec for all our videos – whether they’re delivered via Flash or HTML5 video.

Q. Why start with the iPhone when there are already two community-created iPhone applications?
A. The application experience and the browser experience are complimentary. Some people like using an app, like those from the TED fans at VenueM and MotherApp, while others prefer using the browser.

Q. Will this work on the iPad? What about iPod Touch?
A. Yes and yes. As long as you have iPhone OS 3.0 or later, you should be able to watch our videos on these devices.

Q. Only Apple and Android devices are mentioned. What about the others?
A. These two kinds of devices cover more than 90 percent of our mobile traffic. If a new device comes on the market that supports HTML5 video / H.264, our video should just work.

Q. Do you plan to support TEDTalks on all mobile devices?
A. We think HTML5 video/H.264 is the right combination for mobile. As more devices support these technologies, support will be gained automatically.

Q. Why HTML5 — why not Ogg Theora?
A. We’d love to support open formats such as Ogg video/Theora, but few mobile devices support the Theora codec. We’ll continue to monitor support for different codecs, but for now, H.264 has broad support in the mobile space.

Q. My smartphone supports HTML5 video but I can’t see the video — what’s up with that?
A. There are a couple of possible reasons. We are looking for people to help us on this front. If you have a smartphone that supports HTML5 video / H.264 and know your way around mobile video, send email to contact@ted.com, subject line HTML5. We would love to get help from the TED community to catalog the experience.