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into video lingo way more
often than, say, this time last year?

For most of us, HTML in general
and HTML5 specifically are terms
in the periphery, cleaving around
the business of the broader Web
community — Apple, Adobe Flash,
Microsoft’s Silverlight.

Until now. As more of the stuff
of the Web intersects with the stuff of professional
video, HTML5 is less of an “over there” term.

In short, HTML5 matters to multichannel-video
services in general, and cable specifically, as a way
to move in step with the “connected device” landscape
of screens that want to play video.

But let’s back way up. HTML stands for
“Hypertext Markup Language”; “hypertext”
means you click on something and get linked to
a related bit of text. Generally speaking, “HTML”
started out as a way to mark up “pages” for
presentation on the World Wide Web. The word
“markup,” in fact, is a throwback to the (sadly ancient)
world of print typesetting. So, in that sense,
HTML began as the electronic setting of type.

Each version of HTML brought advances in what
we see and do when we go to a Web page. In the
earliest days of the Web, we had “flat,” text-only
pages. Then came still images. Next, animation
and things being refreshed without having to be
reloaded (a function of AJAX, or “Asynchronous
JavaScript and XML,” which came with HTML 4).

HTML5 introduces ways to tag Web pages for
video, so that future HTML5-based browsers can
stream video without having to download a player.
(Think Adobe Flash as one frequently cited example.)
That’s gotten attention from lots of people in
the video food chain. More cable engineers, for instance,
are actively participating in the W3C — the
World Wide Web Consortium, which governs HTML5
activities — to have a voice in what happens.

Likewise for consumer-electronics manufacturers.
It started publicly at this year’s Consumer
Electronics Show, when Sony and Samsung demonstrated
live streaming of cable-delivered video from
Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Those demonstrations
relied on HTML5 to render the “clickable
thing,” or remote user interface (RUI), which looked
like an Xfinity logo and a TWC logo.

The thinking is that HTML5 becomes the RUI
method of choice for multichannel-video providers
and CE manufacturers. “Remote” meaning that the
rendering of the clickable thing comes from elsewhere
in the network. From the cloud.

Perhaps not surprisingly, HTML5 isn’t a slam
dunk. While more and more devices and services
are being coded for HTML5, it’s not expected to
reach “recommended” status until 2014. Until
then, watch for degrees of compatibility — a feature
that runs here, but not there. (Oh joy.)

Or, as Itaas chief technology officer and founder
Jatin Desai put it last week: HTML is a journey, not
a destination. As are life, and marathons and most
kitchen remodels. Best limber up.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at or