Vimeo rolls out Flash-free HTML5 video player

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YouTube made waves Wednesday evening when it announced a Flash-less HTML5 video player. And now, mere months after rolling out a mobile-friendly site for iPhone and Android users, video-sharing site Vimeo has just announced the rollout of its very own HTML5 player.

Firefox 3.6 users will be disappointed to hear that the restrictions are exactly the same as YouTube; Vimeo hasn’t encoded any of its existing video to Ogg Theora—Firefox’s HTML5 video standard of choice—so there’s no HTML5 player for you. Vimeo’s Brad Dougherty explains the reason for not supporting Ogg Theora is that “right now H.264 allows us the most flexibility to display on many devices and many players with the same file. When that changes, so will we.”

On the other hand, if you’re a Safari or Chrome user, you’ll be able to enjoy your very own HTML5 video player that mimics the Flash version with brand new JavaScript and CSS, just like YouTube.

To access this thing of beauty, you need only click on a little link on the lower-righthand corner of the video description, and Vimeo will give your browser a welcome, but non-edible cookie to remember your Flash-hating ways.

In my own testing, the HTML5 player loads a bit faster than the Flash version. Thankfully, it doesn’t run into any annoying rebuffering issues as you jump around the video, a common problem with Vimeo’s Flash-based player.

However, there’s still a short delay when you click on the “play” button while the player streams video. Furthermore, there’s no full screen playback option for the HTML5 player, which Vimeo claims is a limitation of today’s browsers. The HTML5 player itself is only available for about 65 percent of all the videos uploaded to Vimeo, but Vimeo claims that 90 percent of all the videos uploaded in the past year have the option.

These are exciting times we live in, but it remains to be seen what this recent wave of HTML5 players will do to support Ogg Theora. It seems until more browsers support it—particularly mobile browsers—Firefox 3.6 and Ogg Theora will be left out in the cold.

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